Friday, July 01, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Poets Laureate -- Our National Poets

Joseph Auslander

Joseph Auslander was the first US Poet Laureate. The position was then known as the "Poetry Chair" or the "Consultant in Poetry." He served from 1937-1941.

About the position, he says
Having been appointed to the task of building in our national Library for the People of the United States a permanent sanctuary for the manuscripts and memorabilia of the poets of our tongue, I take the liberty of inviting your cooperation. Such a room, dedicated to the best and noblest utterances of the best and noble minds, is intended not only as a storehouse of treasures to inspire and instruct the multitude that daily throng our doors; it is to serve as one more heartening sigh, in a confused and darkened world, of the power of the poets and dramatists, the glory of our ideals and aspirations.
Isn't that a little bit what Poetry Friday is? It's temporary, but it's a sanctuary. It's built collaboratively each week. It's dedicated to what strikes us as the "best and noblest utterances of the best and noblest minds." And it is definitely a "heartening sigh, in a confused and darkened world."

Happy Poetry Friday in a flag-waving, country-loving, Fourth of July fireworks sort of way!!

I got my inspiration this week by dipping into my new book

The Poets Laureate Anthology

The Poets Laureate Anthology
edited and with introductions by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
foreword by Billy Collins
W.H. Norton, 2011
review copy purchased by me

Here's a poem by Joseph Auslander:


To see a dream
Reduced to rust
Is a bitter theme,
Yet it leaves a gleam--
It must...
But to lose trust
In a simple thing
Like the golden dust
On a miller's wing
Or the smell of spring
In the air--
That I could never bear.

The roundup today is at a wrung sponge. The roundup for the next six months is here, and in our sidebar. Thank you everyone for volunteering to host!


  1. it never occurred to me to wonder about this idea of there being a first poet laureate, or the succession of them. growing up, every once in a while, a poet's name popped out as a laureate, but it really isn't one of the cultural histories we are taught in the US of A.

    thanks for this, and here's hoping you have a wondrous weekend.

  2. My poems are not always my "best and noble utterances!" Thank you for this post. Poet Laureates do wonderful work. Wes McNair, Maine's new Poet Laureate, has already initiated two programs to highlight poetry in Maine. Patricia O'Donnell writes about McNair's projects at the Maine Humanities Council site:

  3. I've always thought that this was one of the best things we adopted from the Brits - amazing to think that the first American laureate was only voted in in 1986!

  4. That is a wonderful thought, that PF is a sanctuary and so heartening. I always find it so!

    I confess I am confused by Auslander's poem. Seems a loss of trust is much more awful than the scent of spring. Maybe I am misreading?

  5. I like others am intrigued...I had not given thought to our "first" nor the succession in those early years. A most appreciated post, Mary Lee!

  6. Andi, I think he's saying that he wouldn't want to stop believing in the smell of spring.

    Happy Poetry Friday/4th of July, Mary Lee! Fun topic.

  7. Howdy and, as you would say, Huzzah for our National Poets! What strikes me as curious is that from his name I assume that Auslander is either German or Jewish, and there he is, selected just at the moment in our history when that might have been problematic. Does your book shed any light? And isn't his diction so old-fashioned? Yet I admit I aspire "to inspire and instruct" with my all-American work...

  8. Very interesting! I have to think about the poem too...but of course, that's what poems are meant to do. Followed you here from twitter. Stop by and visit my blog sometime.


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