ResourcesThe Hammer Museum

Resources – Hammer Museum

  • About
  • Poetry Readings
  • Some Favorite Writer's Series

The Hammer Museum champions the art and artists who challenge us to see the world in a new light, to experience the unexpected, to ignite our imaginations, and inspire change.

The Hammer understands that art not only has the power to transport us through aesthetic experience but can also provide significant insight into some of the most pressing cultural, political, and social questions of our time. We share the unique and invaluable perspectives that artists have on the world around us.

A vibrant intellectual and creative nexus, the Hammer is fueled by dynamic exhibitions and programs—including lectures, symposia, film series, readings, and musical performances—that spark meaningful encounters with art and ideas.

And through our unwavering commitment to free admission and free public programs, the Hammer is open for all and FREE FOR GOOD.

The Hammer Poetry Readings have a rap sheet that begins long before rap itself, and indeed it seems to be the longest continuously operating series of poetry readings in southern California.  Since the series began fifty years ago at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center under the direction of Doris Curran, the late doyenne of Los Angeles readings, whose project Professor Stephen Yenser has administered since 1993, it has presented hundreds of poets, many of whom have been awarded prizes such as the Nobel, the Bollingen, the Tanning, the Kingsley Tufts, and the Pulitzer, fellowships ranging from the MacArthur to the Guggenheim, and terms as Poet Laureate of the United States.  (We have in mind such poets as James Merrill, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Seamus Heaney, W. S. Merwin, Alice Fulton, John Hollander, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, and Anne Carson.)  In many cases, however, the poets appeared here before winning these accolades (as is the case with American Poets Laureate, Kay Ryan; her predecessor, Charles Simic; his predecessor, Louise Glück; her predecessor Robert Pinsky; his predecessor Robert Hass, and others), because we have always sponsored younger and recently established writers along with renowned figures.  Although we feature American poets, we occasionally host readings by those of other nationalities, and Agha Shahid Ali, Eavan Boland, Czelaw Milosz, Adam Zagajewski, John Kinsella, Eamon Grennan, Robin Robertson, Glyn Maxwell, and Alice Oswald have all graced our program.

Disparate in their backgrounds and orientations—they have been associated with the mainstream as well as the avant-garde, with Neo-Formalism and Language Poetry, with the New York School and electronic texts—the poets share a commitment to the venerable tradition of poetry in English, which commitment in turn implies relationships to distinguished work in other languages.  It is no accident that they have also been acclaimed translators of Alegria, Baudelaire, Cavafy, Celan, Dante, and Faiz, to name but a few alphabetically.  They would probably all accede to Wallace Stevens’s dictum, “poetry is the scholar’s art.”   At the same time, each would surely endorse Stevens’s other observation that “all poetry”—by which he meant all admirable poetry—“is experimental poetry.”  Any poet in this series will prove W. B. Yeats’s point that “patient pains and passionate impulse are not incompatible.”

Specific data concerning attendance and outreach for the last few years of the program is available from Claudia Bestor, Director, Public Programs and Education, Hammer Museum.