92Y Unterberg Poetry Center public
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Tracie Morris on her selection: I have the great pleasure of sharing small excerpts from Brent Hayes Edwards’ wonderful book, Epistrophies. In it, I repeat a quote from the legendary Mary Lou Williams to introduce Edward’s commentary on Sun Ra at the dawn of the Space Age. Epistrophies, by Brent Hayes Edwards Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot …
 
Rowan Ricardo Phillips on his selection: The poem "This Lime-tree Bower my Prison'' was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the summer of 1797. He had been set to journey the Quantocks with a group of friends but burned his foot in an accident and thus was left behind, under a lime tree in the garden of a friend's home, while others––including Wi…
 
Sheila Heti on her selection: I chose a chapter from Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, which he wrote between 1934 and 1941. It is one of the most fascinating and vivid descriptions I have ever read—not only of what Victorian manners and morals were like, but what it feels like to have lived through history, in particular the great political a…
 
Howard Norman on his selection: I read two diary entries by the iconic haiku master, Masaoka Shiki, which I translated with Kazumi Tanaka while in Japan in 2007. Shiki was often confined by his lifelong illness to his bed; a recurring image is a parade of the tops of black umbrellas seen just over the top of a wall. Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems, t…
 
Valzhyna Mort on her selection: On April 26th, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl. I am reading from Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Keith Gessen. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of what happened to the peo…
 
Paisley Rekdal on her selection: Charming may not be a word commonly associated with Alexander Pope, but for me, “Epistle to Miss Blount, On Her Leaving the Town, After the Coronation” may be one of the most charming poems I know. Pope, famous for “The Rape of the Lock,” and his exhaustingly didactic essay “A Man,” delights with this epistolary poe…
 
Jane Hirshfield on her selection: “The Lives of the Poets” Poems are about our human lives--their knowing by stories, language, feelings, comprehensions, perplexities, musics. Because the lives of poets include the making of poetry, some poems are about that. I've chosen a half-dozen, from a range of persons, places, and directions, from a folder I…
 
Stacy Schiff on her selection: In a contest between the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard and her third husband, Kingsley Amis, I will opt for Howard every time -- with an exception made for Amis’s 1954 Lucky Jim. As laughter seems in short supply these days, I offer up this favorite Amis set-piece, arguably among the funniest pages of 20th century En…
 
Notes on the selections: It’s been a year. That’s been the chorus for the past couple of weeks, and we're here, saying it too; it feels too notable, too hard-won, too full of loss, too much not to note. This episode is a compilation of some of the poems recorded over 62 episodes: a selection of poems that seem to speak to the intensely individual a…
 
Producer's note: We return this week to Diana Khoi Nguyen's reading of poems from Asian poets in diaspora. Please support your local Asian diaspora and anti-racist community organizing, as you can. In particular, Nguyen recommends donations to Stop AAPI Hate's fund: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/stop-aapi-hate Diana Khoi Nguyen on her selection: I…
 
Yesenia Montilla on her selections: It seems truly unbelievable that we are coming on a year of this pandemic and I have been like so many: just trying my hardest to survive. How I have survived is by slipping into poetry; my own and others. What deeply moves me about the four poems I chose are their honesty and their surprise, their tenacity and h…
 
Raquel Salas Rivera with coquíes in background: “ataúd abierto para un obituario puertorriqueño” // “open casket for a puerto rican obituary” This poem responds to Pedro Pietri’s “Puerto Rican Obituary” by expanding it to include those Puerto Ricans that still live in Puerto Rico, recontextualizing the imagined return in contemporary Puerto Rico. I…
 
Monique Truong on her selection: On March 5, 2020, mere days before COVID-19 would change our day-to-day existence, I attended a crowded bookstore reading here in NYC, where Yoko Tawada and her friend Bettina Brandt read from Tawada's novel, Memoirs of a Polar Bear. They sat side-by-side, each wearing one white glove, and occasionally they held ove…
 
A.E. Stallings on her selection: Matthew Prior (1664 – 1721) rose from humble beginnings--he was the nephew of a tavern owner--to be one of the most important poets of his day, and to serve as a diplomat in the Hague and Paris. He is known now for his satirical poems and vers de société. "Jinny the Just" is an elegy for a real person: Jane Ansley, …
 
Diana Khoi Nguyen on her selection: In a time of global isolation unprecedented for multiple generations, I have retreated into the community of words of others, that is, a return to the nook of books, day in, day out, and it is very much a comfort--a return to the routine days of my sequestered childhood. Today found me missing poets, writers, and…
 
Ruth Franklin on her selection: Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) is deservedly famous for suspenseful fiction like “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House. During her lifetime, though, she was equally well known for the humorous stories she wrote about her absent-minded-professor husband and their four children, published in popular women’s magazin…
 
T.C. Boyle on his selection: It was Donald Barthelme, along with Robert Coover, Samuel Beckett, Julio Cortázar and Flannery O’Conner who spurred me to be in writing myself. Barthelme is best known for his abstract stories, like “Indian Uprising,” a story I cherish, but I’ve chosen “The School” for this program because of its tight comedic narrative…
 
Jenny Xie on her selection: Rich’s words are ones I’ve revisited, during this time of intersecting and unfurling crises, to help me think through the efficacy of the arts—particularly poetry—to respond to the clamor, the turmoil, and the extraordinary pressures of this moment. What civic responsibility do artists and writers bear? And what does it …
 
Catherine Barnett on her selections: Because there are so many texts I love and because of the radical adjustments we’ve had to make in the space-time continuum, I chose to curate a small collection of poems and prose excerpts, each of which takes notice of, or is somehow guided by, time. I’ve included the following poems and excerpts; a collection…
 
"How savage our moments of live, how sacred." A special re-issue for the end of 2020. We'll be back on Jan. 10! Luis Alberto Urrea on his selection: Annie Dillard’s books came to me in one of those writerly seasons of transition. I could dip into any of her first volumes and get lost. It’s the way she conflates what some people call “nature writing…
 
Hanif Abdurraqib on his selection: This poem is an interesting choice for me, as someone who is always too anxious to engage in the act of singing at any karaoke night, but there is something I love about being present during a karaoke night. And what I think I love about seeing the kind of excitement that fans through a room or that fans through o…
 
Alan Hollinghurst on his selection: I read “September 1, 1939,” the date being that of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, which marks the start of the Second World War. It’s a poem Auden himself was dissatisfied with, he cut it, changed some important wording, and later refused to reprint it, feeling it was intellectually dishonest. Nonetheless, in its m…
 
Miller Wolf Oberman on his selection: I will not try to introduce Anne Carson here. If you are one of the several people who do not know the work of this poet, essayist, and classicist, I will just say I envy you your impending discovery. One of the great joys, for me, of her work is that I am never certain what I’ll find. A scholarly translation o…
 
Ricardo Alberto Maldonado on his selections: What could we say to them, those we love, those we’ve lost, our beloveds, now eight months into a pandemic? What kind of vow could make ourselves legible to them and therefore to ourselves? It's been 229 days since I left the Upper East Side and opened shop in Brooklyn, where I spend most of my days at w…
 
Juan Gabriel Vásquez on his selection: My choice is one of my favorite passages in Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, the book that we Spanish speakers think of as the place where the novel was born. Along with Shakespeare and Montaigne, Cervantes, with this book, invented the modern man; and, as I intend to prove or suggest, he also anticipated …
 
Dunya Mikhail on her selection: My translation of this poem by Louise Glück, the 2020 Nobel Laureate in Literature, is part of my continuous work to translate contemporary American poetry into Arabic. Like the rest of Louise Glück’s poetry, “Winter Recipes from the Collective” makes us contemplate how a personal narrative informs a universal truth.…
 
Tina Chang on her selection: I chose to read "Things I Didn't Know I Loved," by Nâzım Hikmet and translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, from the collection, Poems of Nâzım Hikmet. Hikmet is one of Turkey's most foremost poets and recognized as one of the world's most influential poets of the twentieth century. Born in 1902, h…
 
Tessa Hadley on her selection: Deidre Madden is an Irish novelist whose books I love. Her writing has a beautiful lucidity and simplicity of style, free of all affectation; her stories begin so naturally and easily, and yet can take the reader down into the deepest - and sometimes the darkest - places. The lovely conceit of her novel Molly Fox's Bi…
 
Eileen Myles on their selection: I picked this book off a shelf in a small place I was staying in Provincetown this summer. I'd never read Victor Hugo and found his writing so painterly and lush and philosophical and yet confoundingly graphic. A shipwreck felt so culturally apt too. I think we are at sea.  The Man Who Laughs at Bookshop.org Music: …
 
Lila Azam Zanganeh on her selection: Césaire speaks to me, a French-born Iranian, as the poet of migration and metissage, but also as the poet of longing for a home destroyed out of recognition. Césaire is the rare political poet who is an alchemist in his own right—Rimbaud reborn in Martinique, a mere quarter of a century after his death. He is al…
 
Isabella Hammad on her selection: Prisoner of Love is Jean Genet’s strange, recursive, resistant chronicle of the time he spent in the early 1970s with the Palestinian fedayeen in the refugee camps in Jordan. Edward Said called it “a seismographic reading, drawing and exposing the fault lines that a largely normal surface had hidden.” Throughout th…
 
Ada Limón on her selection: I chose to read poems by Alejandra Pizarnik, from her book Extracting the Stone of Madness, translated by Yvette Siegert, who has done a marvelous job. I believe Pizarnik, an Argentinian author who died in 1972 at the young age of thirty-six, is largely not well-known in the United States—I highly recommend looking her u…
 
Francisco Goldman on his selection: My reading is from Vladimir Nabokov's novel, Pnin.  Timofey Pnin, Russian emigre professor at Wainsdell College somewhere in the Northeast, has belatedly just learned to drive, and has undertaken the drive to the summer house of the wealthy emigre Alexandr Petrovich Kukolnikov, otherwise known as Al Cook.  There …
 
Elizabeth Strout on her selection: William Trevor is brilliant at capturing the nuances of many people's perspectives, all in one story, as he does in this story of a young woman is who just reaching adulthood.  We see her sorrows, confusions, and the poignancy of all the characters involved.  Trevor is a wonder in his ability to portray characters…
 
Jennifer Egan on her selection: The House of Mirth was the first literary classic that I picked up entirely on my own, without prodding from a teacher or a parent, and adored.  I read it as a teenager, during a stifling summer visit to my grandparents, when my literary tastes were unsophisticated (Archie comics were high on my list).  I recall the …
 
Anne Carson on her selection: Edwin Denby is a pleasure and an education to read.  He lived from 1903 to 1983 and wrote dance criticism, more general cultural criticism, and poetry. His observation of what happens on stage is so punctilious, his way of telling you about it so simple and clear, his manner of telling so gracious. He was friends with …
 
Leslie Jamison on her selection: More than anything, I love Brian Doyle for his awe. It's not a blinding or a blunting awe, the kind of awe that scours away the grit and grain and difficulty of things -- it's more like supple attention, an awe not just for hummingbird hearts the size of pencil erasers or whale hearts with valves like swinging saloo…
 
Asa Drake on her selections: I read two poems by Ai, "Cuba, 1962" and "Guadalajara Cemetery." I found her book Vice when I started working for the public library. I don't know how this book found its way into Central Florida, but her poems made me feel at home again in the South, where everything outside of me is beautiful and violent, and somehow …
 
From Douglas Kearney's "Playing the Changing Same:" There’s a saying that goes, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” It’s worn, maybe, but not played out. More than whatever truth it holds, I’ve been drawn to the maxim’s symmetry and paradox, something I might describe to my students as holding a contradiction in its hands. Yet, it…
 
Roxane Gay on her selection: There is this thing that happens, all too often, when a black woman is being introduced in a professional setting. Her accomplishments tend to be diminished. The introducer might laugh awkwardly, rushing through whatever impoverished remarks they have prepared. Rarely do they do the necessary research to offer any sense…
 
Caryl Phillips on his selection: It’s over thirty years since I first came upon the work of C.P. Cavafy. A friend of mine, a Polish poet, had recommended Cavafy’s Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. I worried a little that, not being a poet, there would not be any real point of connection. However, from the first page I…
 
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