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Return to previous pageCurrent Exhibition

Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets

October 12, 2012 through April 28, 2013

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“Poetic Likeness” will recognize the impact of poetry in America through a survey of its history during the modern period. During this time, the nation’s poets came of age in their command of a distinctly American voice. Beginning with Walt Whitman, and his invention of free verse, through the 1970s, with poets like Yusef Komunyakaa, the exhibition will chart how American poets contributed to the making of American literature by following Ezra Pound’s injunction to “make it new.”

“Poetic Likeness” will provide a documentary record of modernist poetry through compelling portraits—from the museum’s collection—and include extensive quotations from each poet. Additionally, audiovisual clips will show poets reading their own works. Some of the key “makers of modernism” included are Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes and Allen Ginsberg. The exhibition curator is historian, David C. Ward.



Harold Hart Crane | by Carl Schmitt | Oil on metal support, after 1917 | National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Carl Schmitt Foundation | NPG.2009.45

Sylvia Plath | by Rollie McKenna | Gelatin silver print, 1959 (printed later) | National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Rollie McKenna | © 1959 Rollie McKenna | NPG.95.75

Langston Hughes | by Winold Reiss | Pastel on illustration board, c. 1925 | National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of W. Tjark Reiss, in memory of his father, Winold Reiss | NPG.72.82


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