The Poetry Foundation Library
13 February 2020
There are endless ways to Seek Beauty — including in words. And there’s no better place to read something beautiful than the Poetry Foundation Library, the Midwest’s only library dedicated to poetry. Here’s a glimpse of this literary treasure, their stunning building and their phenomenal roster of programming.
The Poetry Foundation Library collection originated when Poetry magazine began compiling titles sent to their publication for review or editorial needs. In 2002, Poetry magazine received an unheard of gift: $200 million from pharmaceutical company heiress Ruth Lilly, who herself used to write poetry. This gift enabled Poetry magazine to found the Poetry Foundation, and eventually the Poetry Foundation’s Library. Today, in its formal home, the foundation’s impressive collection of poetry numbers more than 30,000 volumes, including the best poetry of the modern and contemporary era, alongside major poetic works of all eras.
Many of the tomes lining the library’s shelves are monographs or special editions, but no work is too small or informal for representation, with chapbooks and journals represented, too. Alongside the massive collection of books, the library also includes reading rooms and listening booths, where visitors can experience audio recordings and the words of poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks and E.E. Cummings in their own voice.
The library is housed in a sleek, Modernist-inspired structure at the corner of Dearborn Avenue and Superior Street. Designed by local firm John Ronan Architects, the building was described by Architectural Record magazine, stating, “in keeping with the art form it serves, the new Poetry Foundation is a respectful, restrained building that employs an economy of means and methods, just as a good poem employs an economy of language.” The structure plays perfect parallel to its purpose, inviting all to enter and enjoy the art of poetry.
Planning Your Visit
The Poetry Foundation Library is open to the public from Monday – Friday, 11 AM – 4 PM. Visitors are invited to peruse the collection, enjoy their exhibition gallery or experience an array of programming from the Poetry Foundation’s extensive roster of public events.
The Poetry Foundation and The Poetry Foundation Library are located at 61 West Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60654. You can visit their website, here.