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Well Versed

In 1956, the Poetry Center recorded Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading from his most popular book, "A Coney Island of the Mind." Last month, Ferlinghetti and his old friend Snyder, who hadn’t read together in decades, shared the bill at a celebratory Poetry Center fundraiser at Fugazi Hall.

"When I arrived in San Francisco in 1951, the city was still pretty provincial," Ferlinghetti recalls. "The Poetry Center was one of the big steps that gave San Francisco more international standing. They built an extraordinary archive. It became one of the most important poetry centers in the country."


Photo of Rae Armantrout. Photo by Sam Hodgson

Pulitzer- winner Rae Armantrout (M.A., ’75). Photo by Sam Hodgson.

It certainly influenced a young poet named Rae Armantrout, who made the first of several recordings in the American Poetry Archives while getting her M.F.A. at SF State in the early 1970s. The winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her book "Versed," Armantrout was pleased to be in such distinguished company.


"When I first came here as a student, it was amazing to me that there was space for poetry, that poetry was being recorded, and they had recordings going all the way back to Williams and Muriel Rukeyser," says Armantrout, chatting in the Poetry Center offices one day in October before running a workshop for a packed house of students, staff and faculty.

"It helped me as young person to take poetry seriously and to see there was a place for it in the world."


Take a look and a listen: http://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/poetrycenter

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