In a Sign of “Great Things to Come,” Poets House Opens for One Night
Poets House, a national literary center and poetry library headquartered in Battery Park City, will open its doors to the public for the first time in more than two years for a single evening—tonight, Friday, November 17—to host the James Welch Prize for Indigenous Poets.
This marks an inflection point and an adumbration of things to come. In August, 2021, the facility was devastated by a major floor from an apartment in the building that shelters Poets House, at Ten River Terrace. This adversity came on top of the previous shuttering of the center due to the Covid pandemic. The organization plans to resume operations on a full-time basis on a yet-to-be-announced date in 2024.
“We don’t have a reopening date yet,” explains Jane Preston, managing director of Poets House, “but construction has progressed enough that we can welcome visitors for one evening, to hear readings from these distinguished indigenous authors.”
“It feels auspicious to be opening Poets House for this sneak preview event celebrating indigenous poetry, even as we wrap up the finishing details on our renovation project,” says Poets House executive director Rob Arnold, a Chamoru poet. “Tonight’s event feels like a sign of all the great things to come when we reopen more fully in the new year.”
The James Welch Prize for Indigenous Poets is awarded annually to a pair of outstanding works, each written by an indigenous U.S. poet. The prize’s namesake was a Blackfeet and Gros Ventre writer, whose early poems were featured in Poetry Northwest magazine, which presents the award.
This year’s honorees are J.K. Tsosie, who is Diné (the name used by the Navajo people to refer to themselves). He is being honored for the poem, “Brown Anthropocene,” which contains the lines:
a geography of flesh
& tributaries of perseverance
fill to the brim
of wounds left
by conquests past
Also being recognized is Native Hawaiian poet Kalehua Kim, for her work, “Ha,” which reflects:
every day there is a weight, although its source changes
the source changes because matter changes
matter changes by transforming molecules
molecules are in constant motion
the constant motion of children, whose voices echo
children’s voices echo across canyons, leap from cliffs
Admission to this evening’s presentation of the James Welch Prize for Indigenous Poets, which begins at 6pm, is free, but registration is required. For more information or to RSVP, click here.