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2024-25 Season of the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Press release: June 10, 2024 — Washington, DC



Today, the Folger Shakespeare Library announces the 56th season of the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series, continuing its long-standing tradition of welcoming the most incandescent names in poetry to the Folger on Capitol Hill. The readings draw on Folger’s

2024-25 season theme of Whose Democracy?, exploring the idea of democracy through language, spoken word, and expression. The season features six readings, including the Folger’s annual tribute to Emily Dickinson, the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, and readings featuring world-renowned and emerging writers in an intimate setting, the Folger’s 263-seat Elizabethan-style theater.

“If Percy Shelly famously asserted ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,’ then shouldn’t we listen when Yesenia Montilla writes, ‘How we took something/ like universal law & made it / violent,’” asks Teri Cross Davis, Folger Poetry Program Manager. “Using the Preamble to the Constitution as prologue, various readings this season will explore the Folger-wide theme of “Whose Democracy?” for this 56th season of poetry.

In addition to the six readings, the season includes its annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Not Just Another Day Off in January 2025. This free virtual event combines poets reading their own works, with local actors reading from famous historical speeches, offering poetry and history lovers everywhere a chance to enjoy this special event.

All other readings take place at the Folger Shakespeare Library, located at 201 East Capitol Street, SE, in Washington, DC. Readings include a moderated conversation, complimentary reception, and book sale and signing.

The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series is one of the nation’s oldest poetry reading programs and is noted for featuring an extensive range of outstanding poets. The series was founded in 1970 when the late O.B. Hardison, Jr.—a renowned teacher, scholar, and poet—became director of the Folger Shakespeare Library and established many outreach programs to make the resources of the extraordinary research library available to the Washington community.

A six-reading season subscription is now on sale for $90—a 25% savings off individual ticket prices. Subscriptions may be purchased at or by calling the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077. Single tickets will go on sale July 29, 2024.

O.B. Hardison Poetry Series 2024-25:

We the People of the United States…Establish Justice
with poets Claudia Rankine and Yesenia Montilla Tuesday, October 15, 2024 at 7:30pm

The 56th season of the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series opens with Claudia Rankine (Citizen, An American Lyric) and Yesenia Montilla (Muse Found in a Colonized Body) reading from work that explores whether “we, the people” have truly established justice for all. Poet and speechwriter Camonghne Felix will moderate a conversation with both poets after the reading.

“Her work illuminates the emotional and psychic tensions that mark the experiences of many living in twenty-first-century America.” — MacArthur Citation 

“Rankine’s voice shimmers with wisdom and fury.”
— The Telegraph

We the People of the United States…Ensure Domestic Tranquility
with poets Blas Falconer, Valerie Martínez, and Dan Vera
Tuesday, November 12, 2024 at 7:30pm

The second reading of the season celebrates twenty years of Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Poets Blas Falconer (author of four poetry collections, including Rara Avis), Valerie Martínez (Each and Her and Count) and Dan Vera (Speaking Wiri Wiri and The Space Between Our Danger and Delight) will read from their work with a moderated conversation following the reading. Bookselling and signing will be available at the reception following the event.

The Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute
with poet Kimiko Hahn
Tuesday, December 10, 2024 at 7:30pm

The O.B. Hardison Poetry series, in partnership with co-sponsor, The Emily Dickinson Museum, hosts its annual celebration of Emily Dickinson with a reading by the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award winner Kimiko Hahn. Hahn is the author of ten collections of poetry, including The Ghost Forest: New & Selected Poems. From the political to the personal, and from science to the journals of Matsuo Bashō, the celebrated Haiku poet of Japan, Hahn brings a lyrical gaze to all these subjects and more. A moderated conversation with book selling and signing will follow the reading. Dickinson’s famous Black cake will be served at the reception.

“Hahn’s poem encourages us to look to our most unassuming neighbors—and in them, find ourselves.”
— Chicago Review of Books

We the People of the United States…Promote the General Welfare
with poets torrin a. greathouse, Camisha Jones, and Kathi Wolfe
Tuesday, February 25, 2025 at 7:30pm

Promoting the general welfare is commonly interpreted as improving transportation, promoting agriculture and industry, protecting health and the environment, and seeking ways to solve social and economic problems. But what has America done to promote the general welfare of all people, including the many Americans who have disabilities? Folger Poetry continues its exploration of Whose Democracy? with readings by poets torrin a. greathouse, Camisha Jones, and Kathi Wolfe, whose present works probe the erasure of disabled voices.

The 2025 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize Reading
with poet Paul Muldoon
Tuesday, March 11, 2025 at 7:30pm

The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, created in honor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anthony Hecht, is awarded annually for a poetry collection by a poet who has published no more than one previous book of verse. This season, the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series and co-sponsor The Waywiser Press celebrate the 19th winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize with this year’s prize judge, acclaimed Irish poet, critic, playwright, and translator Paul Muldoon, who will read with the winning poet. Muldoon is the author of fifteen full-length collections of poetry, and has published smaller collections, works of criticism, opera libretti, books for children, and radio and television drama.

The Waywiser Press is a small independent company, with its main office in the UK, and a subsidiary in the USA. It was founded in late 2001, and started publishing in 2002. Waywiser is a literary press, first and foremost, with a special interest in modern poetry and fiction.

The O.B. Hardison Series Finale Reading
with poet Ellen Bass
Tuesday, April 8, 2025 at 7:30pm

The 2024-25 Poetry season concludes with a finale reading by Ellen Bass. Bass’s most recent poetry books include Indigo, Like a Beggar, and The Human Line. She co-edited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks!, and her nonfiction works include The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse and Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth. Bass, chosen by a group of Folger Poetry supporters, will read from the work of other poets cited as a literary influence, as well as from her own work. A moderated conversation will follow the reading, with a bookselling and signing at the post-reading reception.

About Folger Shakespeare Library:

The Folger Shakespeare Library makes Shakespeare’s stories and the world in which he lived accessible. Anchored by the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is a place where curiosity and creativity are embraced, and conversation is always encouraged. Visitors to the Folger can choose how they want to experience the arts and humanities, from interactive exhibitions to captivating performances, and from path-breaking research to transformative educational programming. The Folger welcomes everyone to connect in their own way—from communities throughout Washington, DC, to communities across the globe.

Following a multiyear building renovation, the Folger’s historic Capitol Hill home will fully reopen to the public on June 21, 2024. Learn more at

About the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series:

The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series, one of the nation’s most established poetry reading programs, is noted for featuring an extensive range of outstanding poets. The series was founded in 1970 when the late O.B. Hardison, Jr., a renowned teacher, scholar, and poet, became director of the Folger Shakespeare Library and established many outreach programs to make the resources of the extraordinary research library available to the Washington community. Major funding for the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series is provided by the Lannan Foundation, which sponsors readings at the Folger and at Georgetown University, as well as a collaborative undergraduate learning program with the Lannan Fellows. More at

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