Chairman's Corner: September 17, 2020

Jo Reed: I'm Josephine Reed from the National Endowment for the Arts with The Chairman's Corner, a weekly podcast with Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the Arts Endowment. This is where we'll discuss issues of importance to the arts community and a whole lot more.

Beginning on September 25th and running through the 27th is the National Book Festival, presented by the Library of Congress, and this year it's all happening online. Mary Anne, the Arts Endowment has been involved with the National Book Festival since the beginning.

Mary Anne Carter: That's right, Jo, and this year, it's truly going to be a National Book Festival. By going online, the entire nation has access to the festival. The festival usually brings in 200,000 people but you have to be in the Washington, DC, area to attend in person and I'm actually really excited to see how we expand the audience now that everyone across the nation can participate.

Jo Reed: Mary Anne, the Arts Endowment has been involved since the beginning with its sponsorship of the Poetry and Prose Stage.

Mary Anne Carter: That's right, Jo, The National Endowment for the Arts has been part of the festival since First Lady Laura Bush came up with the idea of a celebration of books and authors, reading and imagination on the National Mall.  So as in years past, our stage will feature US poet laurates, some of our literature fellows, and past participants in Poetry Out Loud, our national high school recitation contest that I talked about last week on the podcast. There will be both on-demand videos and live discussions with acclaimed authors, and many of those who are past recipients of our Literature Fellowships.

Jo Reed: Can you give us an idea specifically of what we can expect this year?

Mary Anne Carter: We're going to have the poets laureate. We'll have a conversation between Rita Dove, the first African-American poet laureate of the United States, and Joy Harjo, the current US poet laureate and the first Native American to serve in the position. We'll also have author Mark Doty, who wrote, "What is the Grass- Walt Whitman in My Life," and he'll be in conversation with Jenn Shapland, author of " My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir." We'll also have Carmen Maria Machado, author of "In the Dream House- A Memoir," and Elizabeth Tallent, author of "Scratched- A Memoir of Perfectionism," and they'll discuss their respective memoirs and the experience of delving deep into their own pasts. Also, Susan Minot, "Why I Don't Write and Other Stories," and Karen Russell, author of "Orange World and Other Stories," they talk about their craft, the ways they work, and the enchantment of the short story.

We'll also have readings by past US poet laureates, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Robert Pinsky, and Tracy K. Smith, as well as Sandra Cisneros and Amy Tan, and we'll be highlighting several of our past Poetry Out Loud champions in recitations and conversations.

Jo Reed:  The readings, I’m sure will be great but These are wonderful author pairings…I’m looking forward to the conversations they’ll have.

In addition to that, rumor has it that there's also going to be a related television program about the festival.

Mary Anne Carter: There will be. In addition to experiencing the festival online, our viewers can also watch a PBS television special, "The Library of Congress National Book Festival- Celebrating American Ingenuity," and we're supporting this 2-hour programming that will air on Sunday, September 27th from 6:00 TO 8:00 P.M. Eastern and Pacific time so check your local listings. It will be available for on-demand streaming online and through the PBS app, so mark your calendars, September 27th. It promises to be, I think, really an inspiring look at our country's exceptional literary landscape.

Jo Reed: I know the Arts Endowment will also have a booth at the book festival. Can you explain what listeners can expect to find there?

Mary Anne Carter: That's right, Jo. The Arts Endowment will have a booth in the Partners Activity Section of the National Book Festival website where you can learn a lot more about our literary arts programs, which are Poetry Out Loud, our national arts education program. The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Program, this initiative annually supports approximately 75 diverse community reading programs, each designed around a single book, and as I mentioned earlier, our Literature Fellowships, which include Creative Writing Fellows in poetry in prose, and our Translation Fellows. Here's a fun fact, Jo. Since 1990, 101 of the 182 American recipients of the National Book Award, National Book Critic's Circle Award, and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were recipients of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship earlier in their careers.

So the Arts Endowment has a long and proud history of advancing the careers of some of our nation's most-honored writers and so of course we have these programs, and additionally, we provide funding to literary presses and magazines, community-based centers, and national literary organizations.

Jo Reed: Not to blow our horn, but there is one more thing folks can find at the booth.

Mary Anne Carter: Of course. By visiting our booth, you can check out the agency's book, "Creativity and Persistence- Art that Fueled the Fight for Women's Suffrage" that I talked about a few podcasts ago. The book features 117 images and explores how poetry, song, editorial cartoons, posters, postcards, fashion, helped rally support for the suffrage movement and gave women new tools to make their voices heard, and of course, the agency published the book as part of the centennial celebration of passage of the 19th Amendment. The book is available on our website as a download and as an audiobook narrated by the award-winning Julia Whelan, the voice of more than 400 audiobooks. For me, Jo, what's important is that all of these programs and the projects that the Arts Endowment supports reminds us there is beauty and joy in words and language, that others have insight worth paying attention to, and that in our struggles we are not alone, something that is so important to remember, especially in these times of pandemic-induced social isolation.

Jo Reed: Agreed, and I think that's a great place to leave it. Mary Anne, thank you.
That was Mary Anne Carter Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Wherever you are—come to National Book Festival--beginning September 25th and running through the 27th  —it’s as easy as going to—and once you’re there be sure to check out our Poetry and Prose Stage!

The PBS television special, "The Library of Congress National Book Festival- Celebrating American Ingenuity," will air on Sunday, September 27th—check your local listings.

For the National Endowment for the Arts, I’m Josephine Reed. Stay safe and thanks for listening.

Music Credit: “Renewal” composed and performed by Doug Smith from the cd The Collection.

The chairman shares the line-up for the Arts Endowment’s Poetry and Prose Stage at the National Book Festival.