Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was not only a major American poet, he was also one of the most influential figures in our national cultural history. In unforgettable poetic language that appealed to millions of readers across all classes, he helped create many of the songs, stories, characters, and images by which the young United States knew itself.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.
In 2007, The National Endowment for the Arts partnered with the Poetry Foundation to create American Literary Landmarks, a pilot program of The Big Read that celebrated American poets and the historic sites associated with their lives and works. In 2009, poets Emily Dickinson, Robinson Jeffers, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were officially added to The Big Read library.
Great literature combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us. Whether you're a regular reader already or a nonreader making up for lost time, thank you for joining The Big Read.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, c. 1855 (Photo courtesy the Longfellow National Historic Site)
Yakushima Forest (Copyright Jeremy Hedley)
Statue of Evangeline in Nova Scotia, Canada (Photo courtesy Archives of Ontario, Ministry of Government Services)