Immersed in poetry at the Library of Congress

Rising junior Joyce Hida is making the most of her RealArts summer internship.

Student standing in lobby of marble building wearing an Identification badge.
Joyce Hida, a rising junior, is a summer intern at the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

As a poet herself, working at the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has been the perfect opportunity for rising Penn junior Joyce Hida, especially since she is interested in arts administration.

“I just love listening to poetry for hours,” says Hida, an English major in the School of Art and Sciences from Vernon, Connecticut. Listening to authors reading their poetry is what she does in this summer internship through RealArts@Penn, which provides a stipend. 

Hida timestamps digital recordings in the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, making a table of contents so researchers will know at what point each poem starts, making the collection more accessible and easier to use. Most of the recordings she is working with are long readings by the poets, along with interviews. It is similar, she says, to the recordings she is familiar with through Penn Sound at Kelly Writers House

“I’m in the 1960s right now,” she says. “It is like a modern version of correspondence between poets. The interviewer asks a question, and the poet’s on-the-spot answers are often more contemporary and relate to modern events.”

She says she finds the back-and-forth more revealing than a written letter. “I especially like knowing how poems were read out loud in the ‘60s and ‘70s as post modernism sinks in,” she says. “I like listening to how poets read them as they would like them to be read.”

This month she will write posts for the Center's blog about some of the recordings she has been listening to this summer.

Highlights

When she’s not listening to poetry, Hida is helping manage public programming. On her second day on the job, the office put on display items from throughout the Library relating to Walt Whitman to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth— books of poetry, photographs, and even his hat and cane. 

“So many people came through, hundreds of people. I really loved being able to talk to people about poetry and what resources the library has to offer,” she says. “It was really great to kind of see how you can bring poetry, especially something that isn’t new, to the public. To see 5-year-olds looking at Whitman’s cane was amazing.” 

Another highlight has been meeting the United States’ 23rd Poet Laureate, announced June 19. Joy Harjo is the first Native American to serve in the position, which is based in the Poetry and Literature Center. “One of the best things was I got to find out who it was before it was released, and I didn’t leak it,” Hida says. “We are all very excited for the kind of voice she can bring.” 

Office view

The office of the Poetry and Literature Center is in the attic of the Library’s historic Thomas Jefferson Building. “It’s got this great view of the Capitol. It is such a wonderful spot,” she says.

Impressions made 

Anne Holmes, digital content manager at the Center, is Hida’s supervisor. “This summer, Joyce has been working diligently to help index and timestamp digitized recordings in the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, which requires a lot of patience and careful listening,” Holmes says. “She has been a dedicated and cheerful addition to our small but mighty Poetry and Literature Center team.”

Penn connection

Hida has taken several poetry courses at Penn. She says she is especially interested in war poetry. Her father, a poet, wrote protest poetry in his native Albania, and her parents immigrated to the U.S. to flee persecution. 

“Working in the 1960s with anti-war poetry is very interesting to me,” she says. “There is something really interesting in the fact that war poetry can exist outside of war. I am very much interested in war poetry from wars not covered. There is interesting work to be done in the Balkans.” 

She also discovered Joseph Brodsky, a former poet laureate. “I find him incredibly engaging because he was writing rhyming verse poetry in the U.S. during the Vietnam War, an era that generally rebelled against the academic elitism of rhymed poetry,” she says. “But Brodsky got away with it, so to speak, both because he was paying homage to Russian poetic tradition, and because he had survived Soviet persecution.”

Hida is a member of the Philomathean Society literary group, the English Undergraduate Advisory Board and the Body Electric poetry group at Kelly Writers House.

Outside the internship 

Although Hida visited Washington when she was in high school, she has relished the opportunity to explore the city, especially since her internship is three days a week. “It’s been great as a college student to have access to so many free museums at the Smithsonian,” she says.

She lives in a dorm at George Washington University and has met many other interns working on Capitol Hill. She is also reading books that have long been on her list, currently “Catch 22,” and finding time to write her own poetry. 

“I haven’t written poetry in ages,” she says. “I get to be around all these things that inspire me, and then sit and get my own creative work done on top of my internship.” 

Looking ahead 

Arts administration in the public sector is now on her radar as she contemplates her career. “I had never really thought that careers in arts administration existed in a large way in the public sphere,” she says. “I love the fact I could engage in this in a very different way and get people to be a part of poetry in any way they choose.”