Meet the Neighbors: Enoch Pratt Free Library

A journal like Little Patuxent Review requires a vibrant literary and artistic community to thrive–and even survive. In appreciation of the cultural entities around us, we present “Meet the Neighbors,” where we provide you with some personal introductions.

Recently, Little Patuxent Review partnered with Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD to put on a poetry contest like no other: the winning poem will not only be published in LPR and featured in a CityLit Festival reading but also enlarged dramatically for display in the library’s Cathedral Street windows. Last week, Lisa Greenhouse, a librarian involved in the poetry contest, gave LPR Editor Laura Shovan and Communications Coordinator Eva Quintos Tennant such a great tour of the Pratt that I thought you’d like a look around with her as well. So, please meet Lisa and see what she has to say:

Lisa Greenhouse

Lisa Greenhouse

The Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Central facility is both the hub of an excellent urban public library system and the Maryland State Library Resource Center, a rich resource for all the libraries and library patrons of Maryland. It is an especially attractive destination if you care about poetry.

The Humanities Department should be the poetry-lover’s first stop. A walk through the long stacks (or guidance of a librarian) will reveal works of poetry representing all times and places, from Homer and Sappho in Greek to Derek Walcott and Anne Carson. The collection is strong in American, African-American and local poetry.

In each poet’s assigned Library of Congress call-number area, you will find the poet’s works, essays, interviews, biographies and critical works. Anthologies gather the best poetry, new poets, world poets, love poetry or Sufi poetry. If you need to write a sonnet or a pantoum or revise your poem, manuals such as The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetics or The Poetry Home Repair Manual can help. If you can’t remember where a nagging line of poetry comes from, one of the Granger’s indexes to poetry can come to your rescue. If you need a book that the Pratt doesn’t own, we can find it for you. Librarians love questions: please ask us!

The Pratt Periodicals Department holds more than 30 current English-language poetry magazines in print form and many more in electronic databases. From the British title Ambit at the beginning of the alphabet to the Yale Review near the end, browsing the Pratt current collection is a great way for aspiring poets to familiarize themselves with the gamut of publication options. The Pratt how-to guide Submitting Poetry for Publication in Little Magazines links to the submission guidelines of many of the magazines in the Pratt current collection.

Enoch Pratt Poetry Contest

Little Patuxent Review partners with the Pratt to put on a poetry contest.

Down in the periodicals stacks, the Pratt’s retrospective collection includes a full run of Harriet Monroe’s seminal Poetry magazine–from 1912 to the present–and a full run–1889 to the present–of Poet Lore, the oldest continuously published poetry journal in the United States. Pratt staff will be happy to retrieve these and other older works for any customer who wishes to peruse them.

The Pratt, which sponsored a rap contest that Tupac Shakur won at age 14, has a long tradition of celebrating poetic talent. The annual CityLit Festival, which the Pratt presents in partnership with Gregg Wilhelm and the CityLit Project, always includes a poetry component—this year, appearances by Edward Hirsch and Thomas Lux. The Poetry and Conversation series, an engaging mix of reading and Q&A, was launched in January. Future guests include Clarinda Harriss and Bruce Sager and two married couples, Jane Satterfield and Ned Balbo and Virginia Crawford and Sam Schmidt. Sonia Sanchez will visit the library on April 25, and Harriss will conduct free poetry-writing workshops on the first three Wednesdays in April.

With its colorful programs and deep collections, the Pratt is a poet’s or poetry-lover’s paradise. Come see for yourself. If you care for the near and far places where poetry goes, you’ll find our tag line to be true: “Your journey starts here.”

Note: If you’re a Marylander, it’s not too late to enter the Pratt poetry contest. The contest closes February 21.

5 thoughts on “Meet the Neighbors: Enoch Pratt Free Library

  1. Eva Quintos Tennant

    Beautiful Backstage Tour

    Together with LPR Editor Laura Shovan, I recently had the good fortune to get a spontaneous and private behind-the-scenes tour of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, a Charm City jewel that sits majestically on Cathedral Street between Franklin and Mulberry Streets in Baltimore’s historic Mt. Vernon/Mid-Town neighborhood.

    What had begun as a morning meeting to discuss our joint poetry contest, turned into a journey into each corner of this epicenter that includes 22 additional branches throughout the city, all open to the public.

    We had come in through the staff-only side entrance before library hours, passing through stately wrought iron gates and a small courtyard before being greeted by Librarian Lisa Greenhouse who swept us in through narrow stairwells and elevators like VIPs or rock stars into the Periodicals section. From our perch there, I could only get a slight glimpse of the Terrazzo-tiled Central Hall, which would be our next destination.

    Once in the Hall, we were transported into a three-story space bathed in natural light from immense skylights overhead. It felt at once grand and cozy. It is here where CityLit takes place I am told, and I began to envision what a reading would be like in this central hub of the library.

    The adjacent Sights and Sounds section houses all things audiovisual for any film aficionado or music lover. CDs, DVDs, 16mm film, audiobooks and more are all available for check out under a breathtaking ceiling inspired by the Vatican.

    The entire building itself and all of its architectural details provide a beautiful framework within which a staggering set of collections can be found and accessed for free. In addition to books, artwork, e-books/e-readers and all manner of ephemera are available for loan or research. We were taken through the Maryland, African American, Fine Arts and Humanities sections; strolled through the halls and looked briefly into the H.L. Mencken Room before heading to the belly of the ship: the stacks.

    According to Lisa, we were threading our way through rows upon rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves containing books, periodicals—pretty much any kind of bound information—that took up the length of two football fields. First editions, out-of-print, rare and extremely old works were at our fingertips. We opened covers, leafed through familiar and not-so-familiar titles, and emerged feeling like we had been given a gift.

    This is one neighbor I will be visiting often. And one I plan to borrow things from, for sure.

    –E.Q. Tennant


  2. Laura Shovan

    Highlights of the tour for me:

    Being in the stacks and, by chance, coming upon a copy of “At the Back of the North Wind,” one of the few children’s novels my grandmother kept from her own girlhood.

    Meeting the knowledgeable gentlemen at the Maryland Collection, which includes old fashioned card-files. (The files, they told us, can be used to search for information listed under a person’s name — such as newspaper articles — pre-internet.)

    Finding an amazing collection of plays, actor’s copies, in the Humanities wing.

    Planning a window-launch party for the day the poetry contest winner’s poem goes up in Pratt’s large front windows.

    Thanks, Lisa and Pratt Library.


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