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Poetry Centered features curated selections from Voca, the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s online audiovisual archive of more than 1,000 recordings of poets reading their work during visits to the Center between 1963 and today. In each episode, a guest poet introduces three poems from Voca, sharing their insights about the remarkable performances recorded in our archive. Each episode concludes with the guest poet reading a poem of their own.
 
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show series
 
Silvina López Medin introduces poems that reflect on the writing process and the openings we encounter therein when boundaries blur between speaker and listener, creator and creation. She shares Robert Hass on going to the movies and Greek rhetorical devices (“Heroic Simile”), Adélia Prado on the earthy charms of poetry (“Seduction,” read by Prado’…
 
Adam O. Davis selects and shares poems that engage with journeys—across time, through mystery, into the past, or to shape a future. He introduces Nathaniel Mackey meditating on eternal questions (“Glenn on Monk’s Mountain”), Maurya Simon reminding us that the dead surround and sustain us (“El Día de los Muertos”), and Robert Creeley poignantly spea…
 
Adrian Matejka reflects on cruelty as manifested in American institutions, history, private lives, and the public realm of the past year. He opens with Ai’s invocation of the human hunger for violence (“Cruelty”), Lucille Clifton’s deft blending of imagery and wisdom (“cruelty. don’t talk to me about cruelty”), and Al Young’s meditation on American…
 
Joanna Klink curates poems that blend dream and waking, sparking ordinary life with visionary fire. She shares Jon Anderson wrestling with the desire to walk away (“In Autumn”), Sherwin Bitsui’s haunting epic of water (“Flood Song”), and Linda Gregg’s dreamscape of life without loneliness (“Alma to Her Sister”). Klink closes by reading her poem “On…
 
Rosa Alcalá curates poems in which the body plays a central role as a performing presence. She selects and shares Roberto Tejada’s exploration of control and surrender (“Sun bursting as in water beads”), Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop’s stereophonic collaborative poem (“Light Travels”), and Black Took Collective’s daring, experimental performance piec…
 
Bojan Louis shares poems that embody deep listening and engagement with particular realities. He introduces Alan Dugan’s grasp of each moment’s truth (“Love Song: I and Thou”); Layli Long Soldier’s poetry of image, witness, and ways of being (“WHEREAS her birth signaled…”); and Angel Nafis’s critical song that speaks to community (“Ghazal to Open C…
 
Peggy Robles-Alvarado introduces poems that embody complex identities with honesty, exuberance, and strength. She shares Toi Derricotte’s frank look at the experience of shifting from woman to mother (“Delivery”), Judith Ortiz Cofer’s reckoning with leaving childhood behind (“Quinceañera”), and Ada Limón’s celebration of self-worth and self-pride…
 
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke curates poems by writers who have influenced her own writing through their creative leadership, mentoring, or poetics of belonging. She introduces Juan Felipe Herrera’s invitation to a spirit of generosity and care (“Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way”), Quincy Troupe’s musically attuned tribute to his father (“Poem for My…
 
Francisco Aragón shares poems alive with the vibrancy of a particular voice addressed to a particular audience. He introduces Francisco X. Alarcón’s bittersweet homage to a poetic ancestor (“Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón”), Thom Gunn’s farewell address to a beloved fellow writer (“To Isherwood Dying”), and Denise Levertov’s mythic, ecstatic monologue on…
 
Jane Hirshfield curates poems that look into the abyss with brave clarity and complex humility. Hirshfield shares Eavan Boland’s probing into the place of shadows that history passes by (“Quarantine”), Miroslav Holub’s reminder that there is life and meaning beyond human precision (“Brief Thoughts on Exactness”), and Tomas Tranströmer’s marrying of…
 
Douglas Kearney discusses recordings that give rise to reflections on human interaction and the potential for both connection and violence held there. Kearney introduces Rosa Alcalá as she uses found text to chart the shape of violence (“Are You Okay?"), Martín Espada as he encounters “reeling hyper-reality” in the courtroom (“City of Coughing an…
 
Cynthia Cruz introduces poems that mingle “the everyday with the mystical, the unreasonable,” the poems' meaning and beauty transcending the words themselves. Cruz considers the urgency of the quotidian in Denis Johnson’s “The Monk’s Insomnia,” the magical life a poem can carry within itself in Jon Anderson’s “Fox,” and negation as a place of begin…
 
Jack Jung shares poems in which he hears echoes of the themes, musicality, and imagery of Korean modernist poet Yi Sang. Shadow selves recur in each selection: Jung introduces early recordings of James Tate in 1968 on sparring with his shadow (“Shadowboxing”) and W.S. Merwin in 1969 reading a mythical poem about anti-creation (“The Last One”). He a…
 
Michelle Whittaker presents recordings of poems that display their writers’ skill with both narrative and sound as they each consider the body as a site of conflict and grace. Whittaker considers the way Robert Hass employs sound to communicate strong emotion (“A Story About the Body”), connects with Ellen Bryant Voigt’s memories of seeing a family…
 
Oliver Baez Bendorf shares recordings of poets that encourage him to “show up in [his] own life” through both their poetry and the way they themselves move through the world as thinkers, activists, and people. He celebrates Trish Salah’s intelligence and generosity of mind (“Tiresias as Cuir (on the run)”), CAConrad’s expressiveness of voice and co…
 
Randall Horton introduces poems that ask us to consider intensely difficult situations, seeing anew their complexity and the humanity of the people involved. He discusses Reginald Dwayne Betts’ exploration of the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic and mass incarceration (“The Invention of Crack”), Brian Turner’s masterful use of point of view (“2000 lbs.…
 
Teaching artists from the Poetry Center’s Writing the Community program offer ideas for using recordings from Voca to inspire K-12 students. Kristen E. Nelson discusses the benefits of using a simple, concrete parameter—such as writing about the moon—for younger students. She shares moon poems by Al Young (“Excerpt from ‘About the 22 Moon Poems’” a…
 
TC Tolbert shares recordings that express a willingness to be deeply present, including a poem by Akilah Oliver that records intimacy with grief (“Selections from the Putterer’s Notebook and ‘An Arriving Guard of Angels, Thusly Coming to Greet’”), a poem by Rigoberto González that brings exquisite specificity to a migrant’s narrative (“The Bordercr…
 
Maggie Smith approaches poems as a poet’s best teacher in this episode, calling poems “a conversation we have with our own minds.” Smith shares a poem by Donald Hall that shaped her early days of writing (“Gold”), a Lynn Emanuel poem that she prizes for its perfection of word choice (“Stone Soup”), and a prose poem by Jenny Boully that engages the …
 
Urayoán Noel introduces recordings of Ai engaging with war through necessary fury (“The Root Eater”), Lehua M. Taitano composing a lifeline to communities living with the legacies of colonialism (“A Love Letter to the Chamoru People in the Twenty-first Century”), Ofelia Zepeda on the untranslatability of song (“Ñeñe'i Ha-ṣa:gid / In the Midst of So…
 
Hanif Abdurraqib presents poems that offer listeners an invitation to reflection via rich details, repetition, and rhythm. He discusses his admiration for Ross Gay’s tenderness (“To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian”), shares a long poem by Juliana Spahr that creatively engages with the political (“Gentle Now, Don’t Add to Heartache”), and praises …
 
Ada Limón shares poems that speak to finding a way forward through moments of crisis and struggle. She discusses Lorna Dee Cervantes on being courageous enough to be alone (“Crow”), the enduring relevance of poems written in a particular moment, like Mark Wunderlich’s “Peonies,” and Lucille Clifton’s anthem on need, defiance, and making it up as we…
 
Alison Hawthorne Deming introduces recordings of Diane Ackerman reading a love poem for an extraterrestrial (“Ode to the Alien”), Cornelius Eady choosing gratitude as a response to anger and racial discrimination (“Gratitude”), and N. Scott Momaday describing a memorable encounter with Georgia O’Keeffe (“Forms of the Earth at Abiquiu”). Deming also…
 
Poetry Centered is a new podcast featuring curated selections from Voca, the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s online audiovisual archive of more than 1,000 recordings of poets reading their work during visits to the Center between 1963 and today. In each episode, a guest poet introduces three poems from Voca, sharing their insights about the r…
 
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