Poetry Tour

Washington, DC

Some of our greatest poets have been intertwined with the history of our nation’s capital

The Washington, DC, Poetry Tour reveals our nation’s capital through the eyes of its great poets, including Archibald MacLeish, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Elizabeth Bishop, among many others. From the hallowed halls of the federal buildings to neighborhood side streets, the tour features poems written in and about DC, as well as photographs by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis.

Poetry Tour On Foot

Load your portable MP3 player with the audio below and print the map to take the downtown poetry tour.

Narrated by inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander and produced by the Poetry Foundation, the tour showcases archival and contemporary recordings of DC poets, scholars, and musicians, all shedding new light on DC’s historic landmarks.

Poetry lovers in the city can download the audio tours and maps to explore the National Mall and Northwest DC, or take a walking tour beginning at the Library of Congress and ending in Dupont Circle.

But you don’t have to be in DC to explore the city’s poetry with the tour. You can take the virtual tour, either by following the sites in numbered order starting at the Library of Congress, or by creating your own order click by click.

Whether they were perusing the stacks of the Library of Congress, walking the U Street Corridor, or visiting the National Zoo, some of our greatest poets have been intertwined with the history of our nation’s capital. The DC Poetry Tour features poems by legendary American poets who have called DC home, including Georgia Douglas Johnson, Robert Hayden, Walt Whitman, May Miller, Sterling Brown, Robert Frost, Robert Lowell, and Randall Jarrell. In addition to these seminal voices, you’ll hear contemporary poets—including A.B. Spellman, Jane Shore, Naomi Ayala, Reb Livingston, Reuben Jackson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Myra Sklarew, E. Ethelbert Miller, Sarah Browning, and Linda Pastan—talk about the ways in which DC inspires their writing today.

Whether virtual or actual, the Washington, DC, Poetry Tour is a new way to discover the unique history of our nation’s capital.

Read the full credits and sources

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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