By Broad Potomac’s Shore

Published in 2020 by University of Virginia Press

$35 for cloth or $27.95 for paper - Buy Now

Selected by the DC Public Libraries for the 2021 Route 1 Reads program, sponsored by the East Coast Centers for the Book.


A comprehensive anthology of poems by both well-known and overlooked poets working and living in the Washington, DC from the city’s founding in 1800 to 1930. Roberts expertly presents the work of 132 poets, including poems by such celebrated writers as Francis Scott Key, Walt Whitman, Henry Adams, Frederick Douglass, Ambrose Bierce, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar as well as the work of lesser-known poets—especially women, writers of color, and working-class writers. A significant number of the poems are by writers who were born enslaved, such as Fanny Jackson Coppin, T. Thomas Fortune, and John John Sella Martin.

The book is arranged thematically, representing the poetic work happening in our nation’s capital from its founding through the Civil War, Reconstruction, World War I, and the beginnings of literary modernism. The city has always been home to prominent poets—including presidents and congressmen, lawyers and Supreme Court judges, foreign diplomats, US poets laureate, professors, and inventors—as well as writers from across the country who came to Washington as correspondents. A broad range of voices is represented in this incomparable volume.


“This is a marvelously rich and satisfying project—a comprehensive treasure trove of poems by poets living in Washington, DC, during its first one hundred years as the nation’s capital. Roberts has resoundingly achieved her goal in this collection, which includes sample poems by well over one hundred poets. An impressive job of research and a valuable contribution to our understanding of Washington’s literary history.”

—Christopher Sten, Literary Capital: A Washington Reader

“Kim Roberts, once again, shows her skills as Washington D.C.’s literary historian. Impeccable research and a heart for the past make Roberts’s work shine bright, bringing voices to the page from the shadows. It’s our great good luck to make the acquaintance of these distinguished poetry ancestors from the early days of our Capital.”

—Grace Cavalieri, The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress

“Kim Roberts’s By Broad Potomac’s Shore confirms why she is called Washington’s literary historian. Informative, heartbreaking, and filled with delights, Roberts’s preface alone is worth reading for its concise and fascinating history of DC, the first place slavery officially ended, nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. Roberts’s anthology covers authors born in the 1750s to those born before 1900. She includes formerly enslaved persons, abolitionists, Confederates, at least one suspected Ku Klux Klan member, suffragists, African Americans, one President, public office holders, military leaders, and Native Americans, as well as some well-known poets: Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Ambrose Bierce, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Elinor Wylie, Archibald MacLeish, and Jean Toomer.”

—Katherine Gekker, Delmarva Review, Volume 14, 2021

“Last fall, editor Kim Roberts published an illuminating anthology called By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital. Some of the poets are familiar—Francis Scott Key, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass—but many were new to me. Each is presented with a helpful, brief biography. As befits our complicated history, the poems present a remarkable range of themes about America, from grand to intimate, from wildly celebratory to scathingly critical.”

—Ron Charles, The Washington Post, July 2, 2021

“Kim Roberts wants to talk back to the canon. That’s the point of putting together an anthology of historical poems, she says. As a local literary historian and a poet herself, she’s been thinking about the city’s literary culture since she first moved here three decades ago…The book is a very broad survey of what was being published and what was being read—you’ve got presidents and first ladies next to these writers whose names are now obscured.”

—Emma Sarappo, Washington City Paper, Sept. 24, 2020

By Broad Potomac’s Shore is an anthology of 132 poets who were active in Washington, DC from the city’s founding to about 1930, with a focus on women and minority poets, as well as writers’ work that may have been lost to time.”

—Holly Gambrell, “Local Author Love,” Northern Virginia Magazine, November 1, 2020

“As compared to New York, San Francisco or Chicago, Washington DC might not be among the first places the average person thinks of when it comes to poetry. But thanks to queer poet/historian/educator Kim Roberts that is changing. Beginning with her groundbreaking 2018 book A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston, Roberts wisely turned our attention to the city’s rich literary history. For her new book, By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poets from the Early Days of the Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), she narrows her expansive focus from all writers to just poets (132 of them), including a substantial portion of whom were queer. The result is an indispensable collection honoring and celebrating a too often overlooked literary hub, one that is finally getting its chance to shine like a beacon.”

—Gregg Shapiro, Baltimore OUTloud, November 1, 2020

“Poetry and its history in Washington, DC are bringing attention to the hard truth that the Nation’s Capital is nothing more than a territory with no voting rights, that Black lives matter, and that women’s voices have always been consequential though not necessarily heard…While selections made by editor Kim Roberts reveal the hardships of a city used as the major trading point for slavery in the United States as well as a refuge to those emancipated, and…still now, under the choking control of Congress, Roberts’ intention is to define what it meant at that time to be an American.”

—Karren LaLonde Alenier, Scene4 Magazine, December 1, 2020

“The restorative power of verse often helps us express the inexpressible. You need only look into Kim Roberts’s new anthology, By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of our Nation’s Capital, to find precedence. From slavery, race riots, and suffrage, to the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination, local poets have brought lyricism, passion, and clarity to the topics of the day.”

—Karen Lyon, The Hill Rag newspaper, December 2020