The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) unveiled yesterday a pilot initiative to celebrate national historic sites related to poetry. As part of the NEA’s Big Read, the new program will give Extraordinary Action grants to encourage communities to commemorate American poets in the regions in which they lived. As its first gift, the NEA will present Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with $15,000 to fund a multi-generational reading program focused on the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
In addition to the grant, the NEA will provide the Wayside Inn with reader's and teacher's guides and promotional materials, which will also be distributed to the Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, Maine.
The Wayside Inn will commence its celebration of Longfellow on the poet’s 201st birthday, February 27, 2008. Events, including a lecture series, community reading groups, and the building of an online Longfellow library, will continue through Patriot’s Day on April 19, 2008. Patriot’s Day celebrates Paul Revere’s historic ride, of which Longfellow wrote in the poem “The Landlord’s Tale,” from his collection Tales of a Wayside Inn.
The NEA plans to announce further grants to poetry sites later this fall, and expects a competitive grant program to follow the pilot phase.