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The Poetry Center

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W.H. Auden backstage at the Poetry Center, 1966. Image courtesy of the Unterberg Poetry Center Archive. Photo by Diane Dorr-Dorynek

Lit Nerd Wednesday!

It’s a drag to write about places completely vanished or just a shell of their former glory so it feels good to talk about something still very active – The Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y.  Now known as the Unterberg Poetry Center it was created in 1939 to give the writer a platform to read their work — though not completely foreign, it was a fairly new concept 75 years ago.  Initially conceptualized as a poetry format with onstage pairings, the opening night included Langston Hughes, W.H Auden and William Carlos Williams.

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An invite to a Langston Hughes reading, date unknown. Image courtesy of the Unterberg Poetry Center Archive.

One of the bigger nights for the Center was May 14, 1953 when Dylan Thomas’ play, Under Milkwood, premiered with Thomas reading for a number of the parts. Despite the preparation of the  “work in progress” being chaotic up until the last minute, it was a huge hit and prompted the Y to book him for another reading in November of that year — his final and fateful trip to the states.

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Courtesy of the Unterberg Poetry Center Archive

These days the Center is still a hot literary ticket with the likes of Paul Auster, Don Delillo, Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth taking the stage.

What: Unterberg Poetry Center

Where: 1395 Lexington Avenue

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