Poet and Publisher Merrill Leffler

Poet and Publisher Merrill Leffler

Last night I felt like a small file in a living archive.  In the 7th floor Special Collections Room at George Washington University, a pride of poets convened to share the history of poetry in D.C. and to inaugurate an online archive of poets, poetry and literary events and magazines, called “A Splendid Wake.” 

The hour- and -a -half event, lead by Myra Sklarew, Jean Nordhaus and Karren Alenier, poets such as E. Ethelbert Miller, Grace Cavalieri, Kim Roberts, Luis Alberto Ambroggio along with Richard Peabody, Teri Cross Davis,  Merrill Lefler and others reminisced about the long life poetry has had (and continues to have ) in the D.C. area.  And it’s not until you’re listening to them and scanning the program that you realize how incredibly rich and varied the life has been.  The Ascension Poetry Series, The Poet and the Poem, Word Works, Dryad Press, the Writer’s Center, Split this Rock, Mass Transit and numerous other series and publishers all had their beginnings here.

Before this post turns into a hotlinked mess, I would encourage you to visit the wiki and browse the pages: Poets, Poets & the Page, and Poets & the World, to get the full sense of what our poetic history has been.  You’ll see  that there are articles for some entries, and none for others.  Curator Jennifer King (jenking@gwu.edu; 202-994-0628) invites us to write and send in articles so that the memory of these last 100 and 13 years can be archived for current and future poets and readers.

Having been a poet in this area since the 1980’s, I was awed by the presence of so many poets in one room and regretted the passing of others, some of whom had been my  instructors long ago, like Ann Darr and Hilary Tham.  But  I felt, too,  a spirit of excitement as I watched my own poetry students listen to what had gone on before.