The Mellon Foundation believes poetry connects us to our shared humanity.
Together with the Academy of American Poets, we asked 10 contemporary poets to select a classic work that has helped them make sense of what we are living through right now. The 10 extraordinary poems selected by our poet-curators speak to human survival—emotional, intellectual, physical—during profound moments of personal and social upheaval and transformation. While each poem and its author bring with them important historical perspectives, they are also in their own way of this moment, in conversation with each other and with the poets who chose them.
Award-winning artist Sindha Agha brings three of the poems from the collection to life in her short animated films. Narrated by the poets who chose each work, Agha’s animations enrich and broaden these conversations while amplifying the transcendent power of language. Agha’s approach is based on deep research into the lives of the authors and their work. Her collages incorporate references to places, such as the Midwestern landscape where Langston Hughes grew up, as well as specific themes, including an earthy palette to match Toyo Suyemoto’s organic motifs, and wide-ranging visuals that convey Muriel Rukeyser’s expansive curiosity about the world.
“Twenty Ten Twenty-Five” affirms that poetry and art have the power to uplift our communities, to keep us resilient and hopeful, empathic and connected.
We share this project with thanks to the Academy of American Poets and to each poet-curator for their participation.