Chautauquans give voice to their favorites with poetry project


Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker opens the first Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends Favorite Poem Project in 2009. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, the CLSC author that week and creator of the nationwide Favorite Poem Project, moderated the program. Daily file photo.

Jennifer Shore | Staff Writer

If you have ever aspired to be the next Billy Collins, Margaret Atwood or Robert Frost, you might not get the chance, but the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends are giving Chautauquans the opportunity through their Favorite Poem Project.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinksy created the project in 1997 with hopes of “celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives,” according to

This year, a committee of Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends members selected 16 poems, which will be read at 4 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

“(Attendees) are going to hear a variety of different poems — some might be sentimental, and some might have more literary merit,” said Maureen Morley, Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends board member.

Clara Silverstein, director of the Writers’ Center, said attendees will gain a greater appreciation of poetry from being at the event.

“What I find really resonating after it’s over, after you hear all the different poems, is all the different forms poetry can take,” Silverstein said. “You get a real range of poetry and then a real range of reaction — that’s often very fresh and very surprising.”

Last year, Morley read a poem by Isabella Gardner called “Summers Ago,” and though she will be an attendee instead of a presenter this year, her excitement has not wavered.

Morley said it is nice for Chautauquans to experience a poem read by someone who loves it and to discover why the person likes it. That could spark those Chautauquans’ interest in the poem.

“It’s a lot of different people — some of us are teachers, some are bus drivers, some are students, and it’s a way for us to share the poems we love with the community,” Morley said. “And maybe we get more people interested in the Writers’ Center at Chautauqua.”