Festival of Books: American poets make their debut on forever stamps
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The U.S. Postal Service made a special delivery Saturday at the L.A. Times Festival of Books’ Poetry Stage: It rolled out the first-day issue of commemorative stamps dedicated to 20th century poets. The midday first-day issue ceremony drew an audience that filled the chairs and spilled out into the lawn surrounding the stage at USC.
The 20-stamp pane marks the largest group of authors honored together in the history of the Postal Service. So who made the cut? Ten American poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, ee cummings, Robert Hayden, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams.
Each stamp bears the face of a poet. And here’s the best part (also another first): The back of the pane features lines of poetry from each of the honored writers.
“Poetry isn’t just something you read in books,” USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett said during her introduction of master of ceremonies Dana Gioia, USC professor, poet and critic. The audience listened attentively while Garrett and Gioia read lines of poems printed on the back of the stamps.
The ceremony also included readings of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Filling Station” (by Youssef Biaz), Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” (by Carol Muske-Dukes) and William Carlos Williams’ “The Widow’s Lament” (by David St. John).
Daphne Williams, granddaughter of William Carlos Williams, and Meg Walkingshaw Fuel, granddaughter of Theodore Roethke, attended too. Gioia closed the ceremony reading a letter from Nora Brooks Blakely, daughter of poet Gwendolyn Brooks.
The stamps as well as the first date of issue postmark are available at the Postal Service booth near the Poetry Stage.