Poetry Foundation Library – Chicago, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

Poetry Foundation Library

The 30,000-volume library is one of the world's most impressive poetry collections. 

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There’s only a handful of poetry libraries in the world, and the Poetry Foundation’s sprawling 30,000-volume library in Chicago is one of the most impressive collections. It’s also the only library solely dedicated to poetry in the Midwest.

The Poetry Foundation has been promoting and preserving poetry since 1912. Since its first issue came out that year, the independent literary organization has amassed an impressive collection of books sent in for review, editorial needs, and plenty of other reasons. Those piles of review copies inspired the library, which opened its doors in 2011.

Now visitors to the foundation headquarters can explore an endless array of modern and contemporary poetry anthologies, journals, limited editions, chapbooks, criticism, and prose works written by poets. There’s a reading room, listening booths for audio recordings of poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and E.E. Cummings, and a children’s section 3,000 books strong.

Many of the library’s books are inscribed by their authors. Keep an eye out for a few gems in particular: a copy of Langston Hughes’ The Dream Keeper inscribed to Harriet Monroe, and John Brooks’ pirated edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Queen Mab.”

Know Before You Go

The library at the Poetry Foundation is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check their website for information on events and extended hours.

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