Welcome to the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University. Home to an unparalleled collection of 20th and 21st century English-language poetry materials, the Woodberry Poetry Room features a circulating collection of poetry monographs and anthologies, an encyclopedic array of poetry journals and magazines, a landmark collection of audio recordings, and the Blue Star collection of rare manuscripts, chapbooks and ephemera.
Founded in 1931, in honor of Harvard alumnus, poet and scholar George Edward Woodberry (1855-1930), the Poetry Room is housed in the Lamont Library in a room originally designed by the renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The Woodberry Poetry Room celebrates poetry as an intellectual pursuit and sensory experience; as a textual encounter and an auditory phenomenon, as a solitary meditation and as a source of solidarity and social life. In the many roles that the Woodberry Poetry Room plays and the countless communities it serves, the room could be said to be an "enormous room" (to quote Harvard alumnus E. E. Cummings).
The centerpiece of the Poetry Room is its audio archive. Inaugurated by a 1930s recording of T.S. Eliot by the pioneering audio engineer Frederick C. Packard, the Woodberry's inimitable audio collection has grown into one of the most comprehensive recording collections of poetry in the country. The collection today includes recordings by John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Ted Berrigan, Elizabeth Bishop, Yves Bonnefoy, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Creeley, E. E. Cummings, Robert Duncan, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Gluck, Ted Hughes, Robinson Jeffers, Philip Larkin, Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde, Robert Lowell, Czeslaw Milosz, Marianne Moore, Vladimir Nabokov, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Siegfried Sassoon, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens and James Tate. It is, according to Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, "indispensable: it contains not only the voices—from different times of their lives—of the greatest poets, but constitutes a living history of modern poetry."
This vital tradition continues today with a rich assortment of poetry readings, seminars and workshops, as well as significant efforts to preserve and digitize the Woodberry's pivotal recordings for generations to come. We welcome you to visit the Poetry Room in person or to encounter it virtually through our online Listening Booth.
The Woodberry Poetry Room's audio collection comprises over 5,000 recordings, including unique recordings produced by the Poetry Room and the Harvard Department of English, early collaborative recordings made in conjunction with the British Council, as well as the audio archives of the Academy of American Poets and the Aspen Writers' Conference. In addition to these recordings, the Poetry Room also provides access to an extensive number of recordings by early recording pioneers, independent studios and commercial recording companies. Our recordings include readings, lectures, informal conversations, oral histories, interviews, radio broadcasts and, more recently, answering-machine poems. In addition to these recordings, the Poetry Room also houses a growing collection of poetry-related films and documentaries in DVD and VHS formats.
Thanks to a generous donation from Bob Hildreth, the Poetry Room has undertaken to preserve these invaluable recordings for generations to come. For highlights from this ambitious digitization initiative, we invite you to peruse our online Listening Booth. To search for our recordings via HOLLIS, type the name of the author(s) you are interested in and press "search." You can then use the sidebar on the right to filter your search by Format (e.g., "Sound Recording") and Location (e.g. "Poetry Room (Lamont)"). To browse the entire archive of sound recordings unique to the Poetry Room, type "poetry" in the search box, then filter by Format (Sound Recording) and Author (Woodberry Poetry Room).
The audio-visual collection is accessible by arrangement with the curator at (617) 495-2454 or via email at email@example.com. Recordings must be listened to in the Poetry Room, unless digital access is provided through HOLLIS.
The Blue Star collection is a non-circulating collection of rare or limited-edition monographs, chapbooks and broadsides. Highlights from the Blue Star collection include typescripts of poems by Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke's annotated edition of Rilke's Duino Elegies, a cigar smoked by Amy Lowell, broadsides signed by Elizabeth Bishop and Allen Ginsberg, archival photographs of Robert Frost, Marianne Moore and Ted Hughes and portraits by Larry Rivers, as well as first (or signed) editions of works ranging from John Ashbery to Louis Zukofsky. Click here, for an overview list of Blue Star materials (pdf).
The Blue Star collection is serviced by the Houghton Reading Room. Photocopies of materials that are not fragile (or whose duplication is not prohibited) can be made on request for a fee and as staff time permits.
The Woodberry Poetry Room circulating collection presents highlights from 20th and 21st century English-language poetry and poetry in translation. In addition, the room features a non-circulating collection of current poetry journals from across the country and around the world, which are free to be perused by all visitors. The books and serials are shelved in the creative and comfortable setting of the Poetry Room, with views overlooking the majestic Memorial Church and Harvard Yard.
To search our circulating collection via HOLLIS, type the name of the respective author or text and narrow down your search by selecting "Location: Poetry Room (Lamont)" in the sidebar.
Listening Copies Permissions: If you are interested in requesting a listening copy of a Woodberry Poetry Room recording for academic purposes, you must apply for advanced permission from the pertinent copyright holder(s). Once written permission is obtained from the publisher/estate, the curatorial staff will begin to process your listening copy request. For all Academy of American Poets recordings (on deposit at the Poetry Room), additional permission must be obtained from the Academy. In addition, the Poetry Room cannot copy materials that were originally produced by a commercial entity. We reserve the right to refuse requests that cannot be filled due to the fragility of master recordings, staff time limitations, or other constraints.
Broadcast and Reproduction Permissions: If you are seeking to broadcast or commercially reproduce a Woodberry Poetry Room recording, you must receive advanced permission from the pertinent copyright holder(s). Once written permission is obtained from the publisher/estate, the curatorial staff will begin to process your listening copy request. For all Academy of American Poets recordings (on deposit at the Poetry Room), additional permission must be obtained from the Academy. In addition, the Poetry Room cannot copy materials that were originally produced by a commercial entity. We reserve the right to refuse requests that cannot be filled due to the fragility of master recordings, staff time limitations, or other constraints.
For more information, please contact the curator Christina Davis at (617) 495-2454 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Poetry Room is open to all Harvard students, faculty, staff, alumni, visiting scholars and members of the public (with a valid photo ID). Members of the public must sign in at the Lamont Library security desk and indicate that they are visiting the Woodberry Poetry Room.
The Poetry Room is only open on weekdays. For our specific hours, please check our up-to-date schedule prior to your visit:
For additional questions or to schedule a time to access specific materials, please contact the curatorial staff at email@example.com.
Christina Davis, Curator
Chloe Garcia Roberts, Associate Curator
Phone: (617) 495-2454
This site was created by WPR staff members Christina Davis and Chloe Garcia Roberts, and Odile Harter (Ph.D. candidate in the Harvard Department of English), with the instrumental assistance and vision of Enrique Diaz (Web Developer). Additional thanks are given to David Ackerman and Bruce Gordon (Audio Preservation Engineers); Susan Pyzynski (Associate Curator of Technical Services, Houghton Library); and to Daniel Gross (Harvard '13) for the "Woodberry Poetry Room" artwork on the Homepage.