It happened on April 21, but I didn’t realize it until I went to the post office recently and learned that the USPS had issued a sheet of stamps immortalizing America’s Twentieth Century Poets. This made me very happy, because I think poetry is perhaps the most difficult form of literature, but poets today are the least appreciated and the least financially rewarded of any writers (and that’s saying a lot.)
“Throughout the ages, poetry has been regarded as important and providing unique value, giving us all a better understanding of life,” said David Williams, the U.S. Postal Service vice president, Network Operations, on the day the stamps were introduced at the 17th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. “That is why the Postal Service is so proud to be dedicating a new commemorative Forever stamp pane that celebrates 10 of our nation’s most admired poets, which include United States Poet Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and National Book Award winners.”
Even better, the back of the page of stamps had brief quotations from their works, which really made you want to go back and re-read the poems.
I feel especially close to Sylvia Plath—because she, like me, was a Mademoiselle Guest Editor, (about ten years before I was) and wrote about it in “The Bell Jar”, including the nervous breakdown she had right afterward which led to her first suicide attempt.
I also have a special interest in Elizabeth Bishop because she lived for a while in Worcester, MA, as I do now.
So get over to your nearest Post Office and help celebrate our country’s modern poets.
(You can see I already used up one Joseph Brodsky to send a letter—Good grief! I see he’s only a year older than I am, but died in 1996!)
I plan to keep the rest of the stamps as a souvenir of my fellow Americans who have conquered the highest peak of literary accomplishment. May their memory be eternal and may we continue to get pleasure and knowledge from their work.