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Poetry is a Country

National Gallery of Art celebrates the art of poetry in a program led by US Poet Laureate Ada Limón.

The National Gallery of Art’s 2023 John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art and Community Celebration, “Poetry is a country,” will bring celebrated poets from across the nation together to premiere original poetry inspired by works in our collection. Register here.

These free, annual events will take place on Saturday, September 23, and will open with a keynote address by Ada Limón, the 24th US Poet Laureate, who was reappointed for a historic two-year second term earlier this year.

The participating poets—Jason Reynolds, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ilya Kaminsky, Jorie Graham, Heid E. Erdrich, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Victoria Chang, and Hanif Abdurraqib—will perform their new works both in East Building galleries by the works of art that inspired them and in the East Building Auditorium. Readings will occur between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. Only those in the East Building Auditorium require registration, and all works discussed there are also on view in the galleries.

A parallel series of interactive, drop-in activities will be offered in the East Building galleries, open to all ages and interests throughout the day. Programs will include 20-minute poetry-writing workshops and poetry-inspired art-making led by local artists and educators; haiku customized by typewriter poets drawing upon visitor discoveries and observations; and a poetry exhibition in their library.

“We are excited to watch our museum come alive with poetry as we explore our collection in a new way—through the work of renowned, living American poets,” said Damon Reaves, head of education at the National Gallery of Art. “Art transcends time and place, and this edition of our annual Wilmerding Symposium is yet another example of that, of art in multiple forms, created by people of varying backgrounds and able to be appreciated by anyone, in Washington and throughout the country and the world.”

The poems will be available before the symposium and videos of most of the readings will be on the website afterward.

Poetry in the Galleries
1:15 pm and 2:30 pm
Hanif Abdurraqib on Mwangi Hutter’s Ours To Hold And Caress And Cherish, East Building Mezzanine Terrace
1:30 pm and 2:15 pm
Teri Ellen Cross Davis on Alexander Calder’s Little Spider, East Building Tower, Gallery 606
1:45 pm and 3:00 pm
Victoria Chang on Anne Truitt’s Mid Day, East Building Mezzanine Terrace
2:00 pm and 2:45 pm
Heid E. Erdrich on Amedeo Modigliani’s Roma Woman with Baby, East Building Ground Floor, Gallery 103A