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Grace Cavalieri papers

Identifier: MS2007

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence; manuscripts and drafts of both published and unpublished literary works; notes and research materials; promotional and production-related material for Cavalieri's plays; items relating to Cavalieri's awards; documents pertaining to her lecturing and teaching careers; documents pertaining to her work for the Public Broadcasting System, the radio station WPFW-FM, and the Washington Writers' Publishing House; legal and financial documentation; newspaper and magazine clippings; serials that include poetry, essays, and reviews written by Cavalieri; collaborative work and manuscripts written by other individuals; audio and audio-visual recordings; original artwork; music manuscript and scores; and photographs, negatives, and slides. The collection materials date from 1945-2022 with bulk dates 1965-2018. These records are documents that Grace Cavalieri created, received, or collected throughout her career as a writer, educator, and producer.

The audio and audio-visual materials in this collection date from 1974 to 2011, and include multiple formats such as magnetic audiotape reels, audiotape cassettes, Digital Audiotape Cassettes, Compact Discs, CD-ROMs, videotape cassettes, DVDs, and an LP album. The videotapes and DVDs consist primarily of recordings of "On the Go with AAUW," a public access television program produced by the Alexandria, Virginia branch of the American Association of University Women. Recordings of poetry readings and award ceremonies are also present. The audiotapes, CDs, and CD-ROMs in this collection consist mainly of recordings of collaborative work by Cavalieri and musician Vivian Adelberg Rudow, as well as arts and literature-oriented radio programs which were produced by Grace Cavalieri for WPFW-FM from the late 1976 to 1997, and for the Library of Congress from 1997 to 2019 and now she produces them independently. These programs include "Poetry from the City," a program which aired live poetry readings given at various bookstores and libraries in the city, including some readings from E. Ethelbert Miller's well-known "Ascension Poetry Reading Series" which focuses on black and third world writers living in the United States; "Expressions," a program that featured literary critics discussing the works of selected poets; and "Writer's Workshop on the Air," a program for which writers could earn college credit by sending in their manuscripts and listening to the program while professional writers responded to their work on the air; and "The Poet and the Poem."

Recordings of, and supporting material for, Cavalieri's radio program "The Poet and the Poem" - the title of which she took from Judson Jerome's book of the same name on American poetry - comprise the largest part of this collection. Typically, the radio programs feature poets who are native to the Washington, D.C. area or have become a part of the Washington D.C. literary community. Included here are Poets Laureate of the United States Richard Wilbur, Howard Nemerov, Mark Strand, and Ted Kooser. Numerous important African-American writers are to be found in this collection, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker, Rita Dove, May Miller, Billy Collins, June Jordan, Lucille Clifton, E. Ethelbert Miller, Audre Lorde and Kweli Smith. Additionally, several internationally known authors appear here, including Allen Ginsberg and Margaret Atwood. The recordings were on different AV carriers and thus are part of numerous series. In addition since 2016, Special Collections has been using Archive-It to capture the Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress website and Grace's personal website. The links to this content is in Series 16 and available through the GW website.

The collaborative work in this collection includes original prints, illustrations, photographs, and slides by visual artist Mary Ellen Long, and music scores and music recordings by composer Vivian Adelberg Rudow.


  • Creation: 1945-2022


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for use. Please note: For series 3, in 2020 a set of the Poet and the Poem programs and well as some additional content in this series were digitized. Those files are not yet uploaded to the Internet due to licensing issues. Please contact Special Collections if you would like to listen to any recording.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

For The Poet and the Poem programs broadcast by WPFW the copyright holder is Pacifica Radio. That is the organization that can provide permission to use there recordings for more than research use. The Director at Pacific is Mark Torres

Historical or Biographical Note

Grace Cavalieri, an award winning poet and playwright, lived for 25 years in Washington D.C., and through her weekly radio program, "The Poet and the Poem," continues to be an important figure in the literary community of this city. She is the author of many books of poetry, including Why I Cannot Take a Lover (1975), Creature Comforts (1982), Bliss (1986), Trenton (1990), New and Selected Poems (1994), Migrations (1995), Pinecrest Rest Haven (1998), and What I Would Do For Love (2004). She has had twenty-one plays produced for stage and radio, including a successful dramatic version of Pinecrest Rest Haven, and an off- Broadway production of Getting Ready at the WPA Theater. She published a major anthology of Washington, D.C. Writers, The WPFW Writers Anthology, in 1992. Her drama, Quilting the Sun, enjoyed a staged reading by its NYC cast at the Smithsonian Institution. She has written texts and lyrics for opera, co-authoring two productions, "String of Pearls," and "Migrations," and has written three radio dramas that received national broadcast.

Cavalieri was one of the founders of the Washington Writers' Publishing House, and served on its editorial board from 1976 to 1986. She also runs her own small press and media production company, The Bunny and the Crocodile Press/Forest Woods Media Productions, Inc. She was an Associate Director of Programming at the Public Broadcasting System [PBS] for five years and then served as program officer of the media program at the National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH] from 1982 to 1988. She has lectured and taught throughout the country at several colleges and universities, and was, for 25 years, visiting poet at St. Mary's College of Maryland. She was resident writer at the Word Works annual retreat in Tuscany, 1996-2003.

Many of the sound recordings in this collection are related to the work Cavalieri has done with the radio station WPFW-FM. Cavalieri and a core staff opened this non-commercial radio station after being awarded a 3-year National Endowment for the Arts [NEA] Radio Development Grant in 1976. Cavalieri worked for the station as Director of Arts Programming from 1976 to 1978, and as a radio producer from 1976 to 1985. She has produced more than 100 programs in radio drama, and poetry and arts criticism including "Poetry from the City," "Expressions," and "Writer's Workshop on the Air."

Cavalieri worked as a radio broadcaster at WPFW-FM from 1977 to 1997, and is best known in the Washington literary community for her program "The Poet and the Poem." The show aired weekly from 1977 to 1997, and was distributed nationally through the Pacifica Radio station network, which includes KPFA-FM/KPFB-FM Berkeley, California, KPFK-FM North Hollywood, California, and KPFT-FM Houston, Texas. Cavalieri stopped airing "The Poet and the Poem" through WPFW-FM in 1997, and she now presents this series to public radio from the Library of Congress via NPR satellite. Approximately ten episodes from the Library of Congress series are produced each season, and podcasts are made available through the Library of Congress' website.

Typically, "The Poet and the Poem" features poets who live in the Washington, D.C. area and have become a part of the Washington literary community. Cavalieri has been committed to presenting various American cultural traditions on the program, and is particularly interested in the black literary community. The recordings of her programs include a significant collection of African-American poets.

She has received many awards including the Pen-Syndicated Fiction Award, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, Bordighera Poetry Award, Paterson Poetry Prize, The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal, The National Commission on Working Women, and The American Association of University Women. She has enjoyed several state arts and humanities council awards and fellowships. She received the inaugural Columbia Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Committee for "significant contribution to poetry."

In 2019 Grace was named the Poet Laureate for the State of Maryland.


89 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Collection contains audio cassettes, CD-ROMs, literary journals, anthologies, plays, video cassettes, and magnetic audiotape reels. These electronic audio and video recordings produced between 1976 and 2000s. The audio recordings are of famous primarily local poets that Grace Cavalieri interviewed on her radio program The Poet and the Poem and an earlier radio show titled Poetry from the City. These shows date from the middle 1970s through the present.

Collection Organization

Organized into sixteen series: Magnetic audiotape reels, Videotape cassette, Audiotape cassettes, Published works, Writing, production and publicity, Compact discs, Long-playing record, DVDs, Digital audiotapes, Correspondence, Collaborative works, Poet and the Poem radio show supporting materials, Employment, Bunny and the Crocodile Press/Forest Woods Media Productions, Inc., Photographs and negatives, and Web Archives.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Acquisition Information

Donated in two large accessions 1989 and 2007. Smaller accessions arrive a few times per year.

Separated Materials

Often accessions to this collection include publications. If these publications are written by local poets or published by local presses they are retained in Special Collections and cataloged. All catalog records contain a "Gift of Grace Cavalieri" note.

Books with testimonial by Grace Cavalieri

Frequently Grace Cavalieri writes testimonials or short reviews on the back cover of poetry books. These books are not retained in the collection. A list of some of those is below.

Final Deployment by Ann Quinn

Starlight & Error by Remica Bingham-Risher

Carousel new & selected poetry & fiction by Judith R. Robinson

The Bloomsberries and other curiosities poems by Lauri Byro

Trump Sonnets Volume 2 by Ken Waldman

Horse and Iron selected poems by Gred Kuzma

Crossing places by Ernestine Cowalton

The Book of Donuts edited by Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham

Reparative Description Project

This finding aid was revised in 2022 to address harmful descriptive language related to mental illness. As this description was provided by the record creator(s) the description was not edited or removed, but additional information was provided in an Historic Context note at each folder level in order to add context. To view the Historic Context note that discusses the revision use The Poet and the Poem, WPFW: David Fisher..

A copy of the finding aid prior to these reivsions was retained. To view that finding aid please use Pre-revision November 2022 finding aid of the Grace Cavalieri papers


Guide to the Grace Cavalieri papers, 1945-2022
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America