Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010; WE23
Want your own private poetry reading? Try the D.C. Poetry Tour. It's not, however, for recluses.
The creation of the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, it's a roughly two-hour podcast tailored to a long walk around Washington. Think of it as a poetry-themed Acoustiguide, where the streets are your museum and where each picture is accompanied by a poem.
Narrated by Elizabeth Alexander -- a poet who grew up in this city and who read at the inauguration of President Obama -- the tour starts at the Library of Congress and ends at Dupont Circle. (Don't worry, there's a Metro ride calculated in there, too.) In between, you'll find poems thematically related to the city and its neighborhoods along with a fascinating and all too often hidden cultural history. As you walk through Adams Morgan, for instance, Quique Avilés reads his "My Tongue Is Divided Into 2," which addresses the experience of Latino immigrants.
Designed as much for residents as for tourists, it's meant to be a refreshing change from the focus on punditry and politics, according to Kristin Esch of the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, whose previous podcast tour featured poems about the Windy City. Compared with the standard tour of the monuments, says Esch, "this gives you more of a cultural flavor. You don't feel as though you're trying to remember this and that date. You can take in your surroundings and be in the moment."
If you go: The podcast is available in full or in two parts: one featuring stops along the Mall, the other in the U Street, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle neighborhoods. Each takes about an hour. Along with maps, they can be downloaded for free at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/gallery/walking-tours/dc.
-- Michael O'Sullivan