Since 1968, the Folger’s poetry reading series has brought hundreds of distinguished poets to read from their work on stage. Past guests include 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, the series was renamed the O.B. Hardison Poetry Reading Series in honor of its founder, O. B. Hardison, Jr. From 1991 to 2009, the series also presented the O.B. Hardison Poetry Prize. It was the only major American prize to celebrate a poet’s writing and teaching.
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.
For a complete record of Folger Poetry readings, including photos, poet biographies, and more, read the Folgerpedia article about the O.B. Hardison Series; selected reading pages are accompanied by an audio recording of the event.
The Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute
In the annual Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute reading, an invited artist, poet, or scholar pays tribute to Dickinson and her poetry, followed by a reception with black cake inspired by Dickinson’s own recipe. Past readers have included: Susan Howe, Rosmarie Waldrop, Harryette Mullen, Li-Young Lee, Carolyn Forche, Richard Howard, Jean Valentine and Kay Ryan. Find out more, and find Dickinson’s “black cake” recipe, on Folgerpedia.
In addition to its role as a venue for nationally and internationally recognized poets, the O.B. Hardison series also creates original events like the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Not Just Another Day Off” and “A Bicentennial Celebration of Walt Whitman” at the Folger.
We have been proud to partner with these outstanding literary and cultural organizations: The Emily Dickinson Museum, The Emily Dickinson International Society, Georgetown University, Graywolf Press, The Hurston/Wright Foundation, Letras Latinas, Library of Congress, University of Pennsylvania, The Phillips Collection, Poet Lore, The Poetry Society of America, Poets & Writers, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Southern Foodways Alliance, The Waywiser Press, and the United States Botanic Garden.
The Folger Poetry Board
The Folger Poetry Board is a committee of friends providing significant support to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s poetry programs by organizing and sponsoring fundraising and other literary events and by hosting an annual reading by a distinguished author.
Anne Harding Woodworth
Harriet Patsy Davis
Robert C. Liotta
Mary P. McElveen
E Ethelbert Miller
Susan S. Rappaport
The Folger Poetry Board Reading
The Poetry Board Reading gives distinguished writers an opportunity to share 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.