For more than 40 years, the Folger's poetry reading series has brought hundreds of distinguished poets to read from their work on the Folger stage, including Octavio Paz, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, W. S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, Yusef Komunyakaa, James Merrill, Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, Derek Walcott, Hayden Carruth, Rita Dove, Seamus Heaney, Sterling Brown, Denise Levertov, June Jordan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Sonia Sanchez, and James Dickey. Beginning with the 2010–11 season, it was renamed the O.B. Hardison Poetry reading series in honor of its founder, O. B. Hardison, Jr.
From traditional poetry readings to multimedia presentations to eclectic combinations of lecture, conversation, and performance, we are committed to expanding the contexts in which poetry is experienced. Each year, we present eight to ten poetry events— including a moderated conversation and Q & A—in the Folger’s Elizabethan Theatre, followed by wine receptions and book signings in the Great Hall.
Annual special events include the:
- Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute Reading in which an artist, poet, or scholar pays tribute to Dickinson and her poetry followed by a reception with black cake inspired by Dickinson's own recipe.
- Poetry Board Reading which gives distinguished writers an opportunity to share with audiences their favorite poems by other authors as well as their own work. The Folger Poetry Board Reading was inaugurated by Seamus Heaney in 1991. Other readers have included John Updike, Robert Hass, Czeslaw Milosz, Sharon Olds, Octavio Paz, Gwendolyn Brooks, Stanley Kunitz, Alan Shapiro, Sandra Cisneros, Galway Kinnell, W.D. Snodgrass, Pattiann Rogers, Charles Simic, Eavan Boland, and Lucille Clifton.
In addition to its role as a venue for nationally and internationally recognized poets, the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series collaborates with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to present the annual “Poets in Progress” reading, and with Para Eso La Palabra, a collective of local Latino writers, artists, and musicians, to present their Spanish-language peñas every other month at the Folger’s Haskell Center.
Our education programs include:
- Poetry in Schools which brings world-renowned poets into the classrooms of Washington, DC public high schools.
- Shakespeare's Sisters educates high school students on female poets from Shakespeare's time to the present and allows them rare access to the library's resources during the ten-week seminar.
From 1991 to 2009, the series presented the O.B. Hardison Poetry Prize. It was the only major American prize to celebrate a poet's writing and teaching.
O.B. Hardison, Jr.
About O.B. Hardison, Jr.
Hardison Poetry Prize
Discover Shakespeare: The Poems
Major support for Folger Poetry comes from the Lannan Foundation.