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National Endowment for the Arts Hosts Poetry & Prose Pavilion at the National Book Festival on September 24-25, 2011

by National Endowment for the Arts

September 19, 2011

Washington, D.C. — Outside of a bookstore or library shelf, you’d be lucky to find former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham, and A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor together in the same place at the same time. But for two days this fall, that’s where you’ll find them, as they join nine of their fellow writers in the NEA Poetry and Prose Pavilion at the newly expanded National Book Festival. For the first time, the NEA Pavilion will feature two days of prose writers, poets, and Poetry Out Loud champions as part of the Library of Congress’s eleventh annual literary festival on September 24-25, 2011 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. All of the weekend’s activities are free and open to the public and will take place rain or shine.

The Poetry & Prose Pavilion is one of more than a dozen pavilions where 100+ writers and illustrators will discuss their work. New pavilions featuring “Cutting Edge” literature and State Poets Laureate have been added alongside pavilions on history and biography, mystery fiction, graphic novels, and more. Last year a record-breaking 150,000 book fans attended the festival.

So who’s taking the stage in the NEA Pavilion? Along with Dove (Sonata Mullatica: Poems); Cunningham (By Nightfall), and Keillor (Good Poems, American Places), you’ll find Dave Eggers (Zeitoun); Claudia Emerson (Figure Studies); Mary Gordon (The Love of My Youth); Kimiko Hahn (Toxic Flora); Terrance Hayes (Lighthead); Yusef Komunyakaa (The Chameleon Couch: Poems); Linda Pastan, (Traveling Light: Poems); John Milliken Thompson (The Reservoir); and Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley (Second Readings). Cunningham, Dove, Emerson, Hahn, Hayes, and Komunyakaa received NEA Literature Fellowships early in their careers.

Student state champions from the 2011 Poetry Out Loud (POL) National Finals have another moment in the spotlight as they recite classic and contemporary poetry that garnered them titles during this year’s national poetry recitation competition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Alabama’s Youssef Biaz, who took top honors at the 2011 POL National Finals, will share the stage with Nevada’s Emily Orellana and Colorado’s Samuel Opoku.

Visit the National Endowment for the Arts and Library of Congress websites for interviews with current and past Book Festival authors, audio clips, downloadable materials, and interactive features. The NEA will live-blog from the NEA Poetry & Prose Pavilion via Twitter. Look for #natbookfest — the official National Book Festival hashtag — to follow news from the festival.

For more information, contact the National Book Festival Information Line at 888-714-4696 or visit the National Book Festival website.

Schedule of events for the NEA Poetry & Prose Pavilion:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Time Author
10:00-10:45 Michael Cunningham
10:55-11:40 Rita Dove
11:50-12:35 Jonathan Yardley
12:45-1:30 Linda Pastan
1:40-2:25 Mary Gordon
2:35-3:20 Claudia Emerson
3:30-4:15 Kimiko Hahn
4:25-5:10 Dave Eggers

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Time Author
1:00-1:45 Poetry Out Loud Champions
1:55-2:40 Terrance Hayes
2:50-3:35 John Milliken Thompson
3:45-4:30 Yusef Komunyakaa
4:40-5:25 Garrison Keillor

About the NEA Literature Fellowships

Since 1968, the NEA has awarded more than 3,500 literature fellowships in prose, poetry, and translation.  Literature fellowships are highly competitive, and the prose and poetry fellowships are selected through an anonymous, panel-review process for which the sole criterion for review is artistic excellence.

The NEA has a strong track record of finding and supporting talent. Fifty nine of the 97 recipients of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction since 1990 were previous NEA Literature Fellows. All but five received NEA Literature Fellowships before any major national award, usually at least a decade earlier.

The NEA offers other grants and programs to support American writers and connect them with communities. These include NEA grants to literary journals and presses, literary centers, reading series, festivals, writers-in-the-schools programs, libraries, and other literary organizations. Special NEA initiatives such as The Big Read and Poetry Out Loud offer model literary programs of artistic excellence and national reach.

About the Library of Congress and the National Book Festival

The National Book Festival is a keystone event of the Library of Congress promoting literacy and creativity. The Library, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at; the National Book Festival website can be found at

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