Woodberry Poetry Room

Home to an unparalleled collection of 20th and 21st century English-language poetry materials, the Woodberry Poetry Room features a circulating collection of poetry monographs and anthologies, an encyclopedic array of poetry journals and magazines, a landmark collection of audio recordings, and the Blue Star collection of rare manuscripts, chapbooks and ephemera.

Founded in 1931, in honor of Harvard alumnus, poet and scholar George Edward Woodberry (1855-1930), the Poetry Room is housed in the Lamont Library in a room originally designed by the renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The Woodberry Poetry Room celebrates poetry as an intellectual pursuit and sensory experience; as a textual encounter and an auditory phenomenon, as a solitary meditation and as a source of solidarity and social life. In the many roles that the Woodberry Poetry Room plays and the countless communities it serves, the room could be said to be an "enormous room" (to quote Harvard alumnus E. E. Cummings).

The centerpiece of the Poetry Room is its audio archive. Inaugurated by a 1930s recording of T.S. Eliot by the pioneering audio engineer Frederick C. Packard, the Woodberry's inimitable audio collection has grown into one of the most comprehensive recording collections of poetry in the country. The collection today includes recordings by John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Ted Berrigan, Elizabeth Bishop, Yves Bonnefoy, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Creeley, E. E. Cummings, Robert Duncan, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Gluck, Ted Hughes, Robinson Jeffers, Philip Larkin, Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde, Robert Lowell, Czeslaw Milosz, Marianne Moore, Vladimir Nabokov, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Siegfried Sassoon, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens and James Tate. It is, according to Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, "indispensable: it contains not only the voices—from different times of their lives—of the greatest poets, but constitutes a living history of modern poetry."

This vital tradition continues today with a rich assortment of poetry readings, seminars and workshops, as well as significant efforts to preserve and digitize the Woodberry's pivotal recordings for generations to come. We welcome you to vist the Poetry Room in person or to encounter it virtually through our online Listening Booth.

Recent classes at the Woodberry Poetry Room include Harvard Divinity School Group Visit, UMass MFA Class Visit and The Stuff of Life: Exploring the Human Experience in Museums, Libraries, and Archives.



Staff Services

  • Assistance with presentation of materials in class
  • Assistance with selection of materials
  • Bibliography of materials used in class
  • Pre-class planning appointment

Technology Available

  • DVD player
  • Cassette player
  • Wifi
  • Tablet computer
  • Record Player
  • VHS video player
  • CD audio player

Administrative Information

  Class limit: 25

The Woodberry Poetry Room does not have a publicly available calendar. When making a request, please submit with your preferred times and a staff member will get back to you.