In a post on her Brain Pickings blog today, writer Maria Popova celebrates the birthday of poet Thom Gunn by reviewing a 1969 letter from the Academy of American Poets’ archive that Gunn wrote to Elizabeth Kray, the Academy’s first executive director, about his suggested reading list for high school students.

Kray, who reached out to several renowned poets of the time with this same request, aimed to use these poets’ book recommendations as part of a city-wide reading program meant to further engage students in contemporary literature and the literary community.

In his letter to Kray, Gunn writes, “I think the first aim of someone teaching poetry in a high school should be to continuously demonstrate that poetry is of many sorts and is all around us; that a rhymed political slogan is poetry of a kind, for example, and the lyrics of a song by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or Bob Dylan may be poetry of a very high order; that inevitably most people have commerce with poetry in some part of their lives.” He follows up with a list of ten book recommendations, including selected poem collections by Ezra Pound and D. H. Lawrence.

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