Washington poetry: D.C. Poetry Tour

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 Avil├ęs 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

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