Poetry News

@92nd St Y: New Exhibit Celebrates the Beginnings of the Unterberberg Poetry Center

By Harriet Staff


Believe it or not, the Unterberg Poetry Center is already 75 years old! From the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Bratburd reports on a new exhibition at the 92nd Street Y, documenting the center's history.

"We have Truman Capote here in 1949 and you look across the room and there he is in 1964," said Bernard Schwartz, director of the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center. "The letter from Richard Wilbur in 1949 preceded his reading here in 1950 and his last reading at the Poetry Center was in 2009. That's a 60-year fellowship that distinguishes the Poetry Center."

He and an academic-looking crowd in tweed, velvet and corduroy sport jacket celebrated the opening of "Love The Words" Thursday night at the center. Wine in hand, guests ambled across an evergreen carpet, pausing to read vintage posters, telegrams and other ephemera collected by the Poetry Center since 1939.

"If these unsurmountable obstacles are defeated, I will give you my poems with all my heart," Pablo Neruda wrote in green ink in 1965 to the Poetry Center, citing visa issues which were indeed defeated a year later.

Standing by a black-and-white portrait of Pablo Neruda, Bob Losada, a longtime poet, recommended Mr. Neruda's "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair."

"There used to be a saying, 'No girl is a woman until she has sat up all night with an ardent man reading her Neruda's love poetry.' He was not exactly a movie star if you look at him, but his love life used to make headlines in Europe and Latin America the way a rock star's does today," said Mr. Losada.

John Greenwood, the grandson of Bella Unterberg (after whom the Poetry Center is named) is underwriting a reading of Harold Pinter's screenplay "Remembrance of Things Past." The reading is scheduled for Jan. 16.

"It's never been produced in the United States. I said I'd like to see if we could do a reading of it," Mr. Greenwood said. "Bernard made it happen. I'm very excited." He added: "Pinter read here four times in his lifetime, so he was a friend of the Poetry Center."

Originally Published: September 30th, 2013