Among the largest and most comprehensive independent poetry collections available to the public in open stacks anywhere in the country, the Reed Foundation Library at Poets House houses over 70,000 poetry books and related materials, all freely accessible to poets, readers, researchers, and the broader poetry community. The collection includes books, chapbooks, literary journals, special collections, and the Axe-Houghton Multimedia Archive. You can check out our quick tour of the library to learn even more about the materials we hold.
In Poets House’s spacious, sunny Margo Viscusi Reading Room, poets and poetry lovers can browse, read, write, work on their laptops using our free WiFi, listen to recordings, watch videos, or curl up in our Quiet Reading Room, all while enjoying views of Rockefeller Park and the Hudson River through windows that run the length of the space. Our onsite support services include reference materials, low-cost photocopying, and the assistance of a professional library staff.
THE ONLINE CATALOG
All of Poets House’s library materials acquired since 2012, and the vast majority of materials acquired prior, are fully searchable in our open-source online catalog. Books, chapbooks, multimedia, journals, and special collections are listed in the catalog, with new and updated records added every day.
Initial support for the catalog was provided by a seed grant from actor and Poets House supporter Bill Murray. It was also made possible by major support from the Leon Levy Foundation. Ongoing support for the catalog is needed to keep this rich poetic resource funded for future years.
SCOPE OF THE COLLECTION
Poets House seeks to be a repository for all poetry written in or translated into English, with a focus on contemporary American publications. Our collection includes poetry from classical to current, publishers from commercial to micro-press, and poets from self-published to Laureate. We acquire thousands of newly published books each year to keep our collection fresh and relevant. Many join the collection through our annual Poets House Showcase exhibition of new poetry books.
To meet the needs of our library patrons, we strive to bring together poetic voices of all kinds, and to reflect the vast diversity of poets across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, faith, class, age, ability, citizenship, and country of origin.
JOURNALS AND MAGAZINES
Poets House houses a collection of thousands of literary journals, many of them in complete runs, including widely circulated magazines as well as older and hard-to-find serials. Journal issues from the current calendar year are easily found in a special section at the entrance to the reading room.
One of the most comprehensive chapbook collections available anywhere can be found at Poets House, now comprising over 10,000 items. These ephemeral, portable booklets, often printed in limited runs, are an essential part of poetry production both now and historically, allowing poets and publishers to distribute small collections of poetry quickly, cheaply, and prolifically. Poets House’s collection features chapbooks from thousands of poets, a select few of which have been digitized as part of our new digitization program, a poetic resource soon to be added to our site.
The Axe-Houghton Multimedia Archive, located in the Frank Platt Listening Center, is a substantive gathering of voices drawn from recordings of more than 30 years of programming at Poets House, as well as live events spanning the last century from a range of literary venues. Historic recordings on CD and cassette feature a range of poetic luminaries including W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Robert Creeley, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Derek Walcott, and many more. The archive also includes videos, rare LPs, and priceless recordings from private reel-to-reel collections, including that of Poets House co-founder Elizabeth Kray.
SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES
Poets House’s special collections are home to a carefully curated array of distinctive and rare poetry materials. Our special collections include rare first editions, signed and inscribed books, ephemeral items like broadsides and pamphlets, handmade artists’ books, and limited-edition chapbooks from notable publishers and poets. Our archives consist of the Elizabeth Kray Papers: the correspondence and records of visionary arts administrator Betty Kray, co-founder of Poets House and beloved literary agent to poets such as W. H. Auden and E. E. Cummings. All special collections materials aside from the Kray Papers are searchable in our catalog; finding aids to the Kray Papers are currently in development. To access items in our special collections, please contact our library staff.
Poets House is a donation-based library, and our collection has grown over the years due to the incredible generosity of the poets, publishers, and poetry readers who have supported us. If you are interesting in donating books or other items, please visit our book donation page for more information. We kindly ask that you reach out to us first if you wish to contribute a collection of more than 25 items.
For reference questions, book donation questions, and general queries about the library, please contact Reginald Harris.