Archive for Friday, August 6, 2004

Academy picks city as poetry landmark

August 6, 2004


Key West, Lawrence, San Francisco.

The three cities were among 31 locations named Thursday as national poetry landmarks by the Academy of American Poets.

Lawrence made the list because it was the boyhood home of poet Langston Hughes.

When academy officials began planning for the list of landmark places, they knew immediately they would include Hughes, said Charles Flowers, the group's associate director. Web surfers click on Hughes' biography more than any of the more than 500 other poets listed on the group's Web site, he said.

"He's been No. 1 consistently for many, many years," Flowers said.

Other sites chosen because of their connection to poets included Galesburg, Ill., birthplace to Carl Sandberg; Amherst, Mass., birthplace to Emily Dickinson; and Camden, N.J., where Walt Whitman's former house stands.

"Poetry is really everywhere," Flowers said. "You don't have to live in New York or L.A."

But if the literary tourists come, they might be dismayed to see how little attention is paid here to Hughes.

"I don't know what people would do if they came to Lawrence to celebrate the work of Hughes," said Jason Wesco, who organizes the Lawrence Poetry Series. "Outside of creating some festival or series -- which I think is possible -- I don't know what impact it's going to have tomorrow, other than recognizing Lawrence as a city that favors the arts."

Officials at the national academy, based in New York, surveyed hundreds of nominations and added a few of their own, Flowers said. Write-ups on the 31 selected sites will be compiled and added to the yearlong project of the National Poetry Almanac, available in progress on the academy Web site,

The academy is posting a landmark per day for the month of August. The entries don't offer rare archival material but will serve as a general guide, Flowers said.

Wesco, who also operates 219 Press in Perry, a poetry publishing house, said visitors to Lawrence could see sites related to Hughes, including his boyhood home at 732 Ala.; the church he attended, St. Luke AME, 900 N.Y.; the former Lawrence Public Library, 200 W. Ninth St., where he spent hours reading; and the schools he attended, Pinckney School, 801 W. Sixth St., New York School, 936 N.Y., and the former Central School, 901 Ky.

But none of those sites is dedicated to telling the poet's story. That could change, at least in part, if a local group has its way. A Langston Hughes Center for Community Enrichment is one of several proposals for use in the former library at 200 W. Ninth St., commonly referred to as the Carnegie Library and former home of the Lawrence Arts Center.

Susan Henderson, marketing director for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it was too early to know whether the Langston Hughes center -- if approved by the City Commission -- would boost local tourism.

"We already have libraries, and they're not a tourist draw," she said. "But museums are; it depends on what form that would take."

Wesco said Lawrence has a vibrant poetry community, though he said few -- if any -- local poets imitate Hughes' style. Still, Wesco said he welcomed the national landmark designation.

"I think it's always important when you have somebody of (Hughes') stature that makes people think about poetry as an art form," Wesco said.

Sites named national poetry landmarks by the Academy of American Poets:¢ Berkeley Poetry Walk, Berkeley, Calif.¢ City Lights Book Shop, San Francisco, Calif.¢ Robinson Jeffers Tor House, Carmel, Calif.¢ Wallace Stevens' home-office route, Hartford, Conn.¢ Key West, Fla.: homes of Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Wallace Stevens, Tennessee Williams, and Shel Silverstein¢ Sidney Lanier's home, Macon, Ga.¢ Carl Sandberg's birthplace, Galesburg, Ill.¢ Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Chicago, Ill.¢ Langston Hughes' hometown, Lawrence, Kan.¢ Robert Penn Warren's birthplace, Guthrie, Ky.¢ Emily Dickinson's home, Amherst, Mass.¢ Anne Bradstreet, Salem, Mass.¢ Grolier Bookshop, Cambridge, Mass.¢ Woodberry Poetry Room, Lamont Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.¢ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, Cambridge, Mass.¢ McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass.¢ Edna St. Vincent Millay's home, Camden, Maine¢ Theodore Roethke's home, Saginaw, Mich.¢ Robert Hayden's bus route, Ann Arbor, Mich.¢ Dixon Bar, Dixon, Mont.¢ Robert Frost Place, Franconia, N.H.¢ Walt Whitman House, Camden, N.J.¢ William Carlos Williams' home and office, Rutherford, N.J.¢ George Moses Horton's home, Chatham County, N.C.¢ Poets' Corner, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York, N.Y.¢ Brooklyn Bridge, New York, N.Y.¢ White Horse Tavern, New York, N.Y.¢ Paul Laurence Dunbar House, Dayton, Ohio¢ James Wright's hometown, Martins Ferry, Ohio¢ Marianne Moore Collection, Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, Pa.¢ William Stafford's signs along the North Cascades National Scenic Highway, Washington.

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