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Poetry For All

Joanne Diaz and Abram Van Engen

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This podcast is for those who already love poetry and for those who know very little about it. In this podcast, we read a poem, discuss it, see what makes it tick, learn how it works, grow from it, and then read it one more time. Introducing our brand new Poetry For All website: https://poetryforallpod.com! Please visit the new website to learn more about our guests, search for thematic episodes (ranging from Black History Month to the season of autumn), and subscribe to our newsletter.
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In this episode, we read one of Victoria Chang’s moving poems from her collection OBIT, and discuss how the poem explores the interplay between life, death, grieving, and memory as the poet tries to process her mother’s passing. Thanks to Copper Canyon Press for granting us permission to read this poem, which was originally published in OBIT. Victo…
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This episode dives into the wonderful world of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the musicality of his language, and the vision he has of becoming what we already are. This poem illustrates the cover of Abram Van Engen's new book, Word Made Fresh. The book explores connections between poetry and faith, and it serves as an invitation to reading poetry of all k…
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In this episode, Lauren Camp joins us to read and discuss "Inner Planets," a poem that she wrote during her time as the astronomer in residence at Grand Canyon National Park. She describes her poetic process and the value of solitude in a place full of wonderment. To learn more about the Grand Canyon Astronomer in Residence program, click here. To …
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Our first live performance of the podcast, featuring Marilyn Nelson and a discussion or her amazing poem "How I Discovered Poetry." On January 31, we met at Calvin University for its January Series and spoke with Marilyn Nelson about poetry and her work for a live audience. For more on Marilyn Nelson, visit her website or The Poetry Foundation. Thi…
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In the first episode of 2024, we read one of the great poets of the past century, W.S. Merwin, and his address to the new year, considering his attentiveness, his style, and his wondrous mood and mode of contemplation and surprise. Picking up on the "radical hope" we discussed in Dimitrov's "Winter Solstice," we turn to Merwin's sense of what is un…
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In this episode, we read and discuss a poem that provides a powerful meditation on the longest night of the year. To learn more about Alex Dimitrov, please visit his website. Thanks to Copper Canyon Press for granting us permission to read this poem from Love and Other Poems. During our conversation, we briefly allude to "Love," Dimitrov's wonderfu…
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In our discussion of "The Priest Questions the Lava," Katy describes the sentience of the natural world, her erasure of documentary texts, her interest in visual poetry, and the importance of poems that examine ethical and spiritual questions in an era of climate change. To see Katy's erasure, click on the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day featu…
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In episode 64, we talk about Shakespeare's sonnet 29, a poem about comparison and competition, leading the poet almost to despise himself before, by chance, he remembers his dear friend and is lifted by the deep joy of that relationship. We link our discussion to present-day concerns about social media, the Surgeon General's warning about an epidem…
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Poet and translator Haleh Liza Gafori joins us to closely read and discuss a poem by Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (1207-1273 CE), one of the greatest of all Sufi poets. We discuss the poetic constraints of the ghazal form, Rumi's encounters with the divine, and the significance of his friendship with Shams, a man who transformed his life and poetic p…
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What makes haiku "the perfect poetic form"? This episode reads three wonderful haiku by Kobayashi Issa and explores what makes them so moving and fun. We use the beautiful translations of award-winning poet Robert Haas in The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa. To see these haiku and others online, visit The Poetry Foundation here.…
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With her quality of attention and focus on vivid, specific images, Ada Limón brings us to a moment of surprising insight in "The Raincoat." "The Raincoat" appears in Ada Limón's book The Carrying by Milkweed Editions. Thank you to Milkweed Editions for permission to read the poem on this podcast. You can find the "The Raincoat" on the Poetry Founda…
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In this episode, we explore the poetry of joy in a world of shade and death, looking to sounds and repetitions while examining how "From Blossoms" speaks back to the poem that immediately precedes it in Lee's great book Rose. For more on Li-Young Lee, see The Poetry Foundation here. Thanks to BOA Editions for granting us permission to read Li-Young…
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In this episode, we read the elegy of Chidiock Tichborne, written the night before his execution, and contemplate the power of repetitions, the balanced precision of a man facing his end, and the drumbeat of monosyllables that takes his imagination beyond the moment of his death. Tichborne's Elegy My feast of joy is but a dish of pain, My crop of c…
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In this episode, we are delighted to have Richie Hofmann as our guest. Richie Hofmann is the author of two collections: Second Empire and A Hundred Lovers. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Yale Review, and many other literary magazines, and he is the recipient of Ruth Lilly and Wallace Stegner fellowships. To learn more …
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She called herself Vincent, she smoked cigarettes, and she wore shimmery golden evening gowns when she read her poetry to sold-out crowds. Edna St. Vincent Millay was the emblem of the "New Woman" and one of the most important American poets of the twentieth century...but in years after her death, her literary reputation suffered, and only recently…
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Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was one of the longest-reigning monarchs in all of British history, but she was also a gifted poet. In this episode, we discuss "On Monsieur's Departure," a poem that is inspired by Petrarchan conventions and gives insight into the public and private selves of a powerful queen. (For the text of the poem, scroll to the …
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In this episode, we discuss Kay Ryan's "Crib," a brief poem that begins with an interest in the deep archaeology of language and shifts to a powerful meditation on theft, innocence, and guilt. "Crib" appears in The Best of It © 2010 by Kay Ryan. Used by permissions of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. For more on Kay Ryan and her work, you can visit the Poetry …
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In this episode, we talk with David Baker about "To Autumn" by Carl Phillips, exploring the way Phillips masterfully achieves a sense of intimacy and restlessness in a lyric ode that tosses between two parts while incorporating the sonnet tradition. For more on Carl Phillips, please visit the Poetry Foundation. For more on David Baker, please visit…
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In this episode, we focus on the life and work of Carter Revard, an Osage poet whose medieval scholarship informs the structure of "What the Eagle Fan Says." Jessica Rosenfeld, a professor of medieval literature at Washington University in St. Louis, joins us for this discussion. Carter Revard was a prolific poet and scholar. To learn more about hi…
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This sonnet reflects on the autumn of life and an intimate love, and it turns on that love growing stronger in and through its age, even as the body decays. To learn more about Shakespeare's sonnets, visit Folger Shakespeare page. Our favorite editions of Shakespeare's sonnets are edited by Colin Burrow and Stephen Booth. Sir Patrick Stewart's read…
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To learn more about Martín Espada, click here. To read the poem, click here. This is the first poem that appears in Floaters, the winner of the 2021 National Book Award. To purchase a copy of the book, click here. Photo credit: Lauren Marie Schmidt (cropped to fit dimensions)By Joanne Diaz and Abram Van Engen
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In this episode, we discuss how Rafael Campo, a practicing physician, uses blank verse to explore the experience of illness and suffering. Thanks to the Georges Borchardt, Inc. for granting us permission to read this poem. You can find "Primary Care" in Alternative Medicine (Duke University Press, 2013). Links: Campo reads Primary Care Campo Author…
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In this episode, we closely read Lisel Mueller's "When I am Asked" in order to better understand grief as a deep source of artistic expression. We look at language as a source of connection and hope, even in the midst of sorrow and solitude. With this poem about the making of poetry (an_ ars poetica_), we come to see how one artist turned to the in…
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In this episode, we examine The Golden Shovel form and discuss the idea of "survivance" through the work of Muscogee (Creek) poet Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. You can find the text of "An American Sunrise" here, though this is an earlier version of the poem. The final version appears in her finished book of the same title…
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In this episode, Christopher Hanlon joins us to discuss an excerpt from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. We discuss the poem's prophetic voice, its patterns of repetition, the connective tissue that binds his ideas and invites readers in, and the cultural context in which Whitman produced his work. To read the text of this poem, click here or see be…
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Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) was one of the most powerful poets of the twentieth century. This joyful poem caps a sequence of sixteen poems called "some jesus," which walks through biblical characters (beginning with Adam and Eve) and ends on four poems for Holy Week and Easter. She wrote other poems on the Bible as well, including "john" and "my dr…
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We’re sharing a special preview of a podcast we’ve been enjoying, Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso, from Pushkin Industries. Talk Easy is a weekly interview podcast, where writer Sam Fragoso invites actors, writers, activists, and musicians to come to the table and speak from the heart in ways you probably haven't heard from them before. Driven by curios…
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In this episode, we look at Ben Jonson's elegy for his son who died of the plague at the age of 7. This poem is so brief, and yet, it manages to cross a lot of emotional terrain as Jonson struggles to understand the profundity of his loss. Here is the poem: On my First Son Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy; My sin was too much hope of …
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In this episode, Ann Hudson joins us to read her poem “Soap” and discuss how its narrative structure allows her to explore the history of science, technology, and our notions of progress and beauty, even when those notions do great harm to ordinary workers. Ann is the author of two collections of poetry: The Armillary Sphere, which was selected by …
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In this episode, Margaret Noodin joins us to discuss her poem "What the Peepers Say." In our conversation, we talk about Margaret's writing in both Anishinaabemowin and English, her attention to sounds and rhythms, and what the peeper--a tiny springtime frog--can teach us about presence and listening. Margaret Noodin is the author of two bilingual …
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To read Hayden's poem, click here. Thanks to W.W. Norton & Company for granting us permission to read this poem. Reginald Dwayne Betts's introduction to the Collected Poems of Robert Hayden is very moving, as is the afterword by Arnold Rampersad. For a series of insightful observations about Hayden's sonnet, see Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Aimee Nez…
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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a prolific writer and activist of the nineteenth century. In this episode, Professor Janaka Bowman Lewis joins us to discuss her power, influence, voice, and work. "Learning to Read" foregrounds the ballad style in a narrative poem designed to keep alive the memories of fighting for both literacy and liberation. For…
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In this episode, we provide a close reading of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, which allows us to consider the poem's definition of a love that is enduring. In addition, though, we consider a reading of the poem which foregrounds a disappointed poetic speaker who can see the love's transience, too. For the text of this poem, click here. Colin Bur…
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This week, Rafia Zafar joins us to discuss "We Wear the Mask" by the great poet and writer Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). Rafia leads us in a discussion of Dunbar's fame and influence while opening up broader themes of African American history and literature. We Wear the Mask BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides…
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In this episode, our guest Laura Van Prooyen reads "Elegy for My Mother's Mind," a poem that navigates the complexities of memory, loss, and familial relationships. Laura's poem gives us an opportunity to think about the deep sources of poetic inspiration, the revision process, and the power of metaphor. To learn more about Laura's work, check her …
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Joanne and Abram launch the fourth season of Poetry For All with a short discussion about what this podcast is all about and how it relates to all the other great poetry podcasts in the world. This conversation is an excerpt from our virtual visit with the students in Grace Talusan's creative writing workshop at Brandeis University. Grace uses our …
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In this episode, we discuss Denise Levertov's powerful meditation on the horrors of the twentieth century, and how the mystery of the incarnation might provide humanity with some hope. Our close reading of this poem is informed by Eavan Boland's Preface and Anne Dewey and Paul A. Lacey's Afterword in The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (New Dire…
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In this episode, we discuss the way in which Matthew Zapruder attends to vivid, specific details to create a sense of wonder, connection, and surprise. To read "Poem for Wisconsin," click here. "Poem for Wisconsin" originally appeared in the collection Sun Bear. Thanks to Copper Canyon Press for granting us permission to read this poem on the podca…
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In this episode, we discuss erasure poetry and its power to reveal hidden histories and redacted stories through Tracy K. Smith's erasure of the Declaration of Independence. For the poem (including a reading and discussion of the poem by Tracy Smith), see the Poetry Foundation. For Solmaz Sharif's discussion of the political implications of erasure…
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This week, the poet and scholar Stephanie Burt joins us to discuss the extraordinary power of Adrienne Rich. We think through how the spacing and stanzas of a poem can draw out denials and divulgences, while also exploring the life and writing of Rich. Stephanie Burt's excellent book Don't Read Poetry ends with an examination of this poem by Adrien…
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In this episode, poet Rick Barot guides us in our reading of his poem "Cascades 501" from The Galleons, his most recent collection. Rick's insights into how poets engage with place, create juxtapositions, and arrive at insights taught us so much about how poets create their best work. To learn more about Rick Barot, you can visit his website: https…
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This week we take a closer look at another autumn poem, this one by Jane Kenyon from her wonderful book Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. Kenyon builds from and transforms the same tradition of the autumn ode we examined last week with John Keats. Thank you to Graywolf Press for permission to read this poem from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems b…
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To Autumn by John Keats Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a swee…
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Elizabeth Bishop was one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, and "One Art" is certainly one of the greatest villanelles. In this episode, we talk about the poetic form and its constraints. We also draw upon recent scholarship that has revealed a great deal about Elizabeth Bishop's life and work in order to understand the power of poetic…
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Countee Cullen was a major voice of the Harlem Renaissance. Joined by the renowned cultural critic Gerald Early, we here examine together story of Countee Cullen and the astounding sonnet that opens his main collection of poetry, My Soul's High Song. For more on Countee Cullen, see the Poetry Foundation. Here is the text of the sonnet: Yet Do I Mar…
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In this episode, we read and discuss the influential modernist poet Marianne Moore and her witty, wonderful poem called "Poetry," a classic ars poetica (a poem about writing poetry). This poem has gone through many different editions. We take an earlier, longer version and ask how it participated in the modernist practice of "making it new" in the …
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In this episode, Brenda Cárdenas guides us through a reading of "Our Lady of Sorrows," an ekphrastic poem that is inspired by the work of Ana Mendieta. To read more of Brenda Cárdenas's work, click here: https://uwm.edu/english/our-people/cardenas-brenda/ To learn more about Ana Mendieta's work, click here: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist…
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