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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Writing 'The Feel' of the World

“What is more important in a library than anything else - than everything else - is the fact that it exists.” – Archibald MacLeish

Born in Illinois on this date in 1892, Archibald MacLeish was one of the so-called “Lost Generation” of American writers and artists who made Paris their home in the 1920s.  He grew from being a rebellious writer into, “One of the hundred most influential figures in librarianship during the 20th century” working tirelessly to promote the arts, culture, and libraries.

Among his many impacts, MacLeish became the first Librarian of Congress to begin the process to name what would ultimately become the position of U.S. Poet Laureate, a position he himself easily could have fulfilled.    

Associating himself with the Modernist school, he wrote so eloquently and powerfully that he ended up with dozens of prizes including two Pulitzers for Poetry and another for Drama.  His dramatic winner, the Broadway play J.B. – a modern day re-telling of the Book of Job – also won a Tony as Best Drama.

Often at odds with journalists, he once said, “Journalists don’t understand how poets work.  Journalism is concerned with events; poetry with feelings. Journalism is concerned with the look of the world, poetry with the feel of the world. 

“Poets,” MacLeish said, “are literal-minded men who will squeeze a word till it hurts.”

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