Poetry For All

Finding Our Way Into Great Poems

About the show

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.

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  • Episode 24: Robert Hayden, Those Winter Sundays

    June 14th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  20 mins 49 secs
    family, fatherhood, formalism, metaphor, robert hayden, sonnet, sound, volta
  • Episode 23: Langston Hughes, "Johannesburg Mines"

    May 21st, 2021  |  Season 2  |  19 mins 29 secs
    chiastic structure, difficult poetry, harlem renaissance, langston hughes, poetry of witness, social poetics, trauma

    In this episode, we discuss social poetics, poetry of witness, and the places where poetry speaks loudly of silence -- where language fails in the face of trauma. "The worst is not, so long as we can say, 'This is the worst.'"

  • Episode 22: Two Poems of World War I

    April 27th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  24 mins 43 secs
    ivor gurney, modernism, nationalism, ptsd, rupert brooke, shell shock, the soldier, to his love, war, world war i

    In this episode, we talk with Vince Sherry about two poems of WWI: Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" and Ivor Gurney's "To His Love." The first poem, a stately beauty, imagines war almost peacefully; the second poem, scarred by combat, speaks back nervously and angrily. We talk through this remarkable set of poems and experiences and examine how a careful use of language conveys their effects.

  • Episode 21: Christian Wiman, I Don't Want to Be a Spice Store

    April 13th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  18 mins 45 secs
    accessibility, chaos, christian wiman, i don't want to be a spice store, levity, order, poetry book, structure, surprise

    In this episode we talk with Christian Wiman about the arc of a book of poetry, the structure of an individual poem, the desire for openness and accessibility, and the surprising shifts from levity to seriousness that take even the writer by surprise.

  • Episode 20: Hester Pulter, View But This Tulip

    March 29th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  25 mins 44 secs
    bodily resurrection, early modern women, emblem, hester pulter, immortality, pulter project, religion, science, tulip

    Wendy Wall joins us to discuss an extraordinary poet whose works went unknown for over three hundred years. Hester Pulter brought together science, religion, poetic traditions and so much more. Her 120 remarkable poems are now available at the award-winning Pulter Project website.

  • Episode 19: Naomi Shihab Nye, Gate A-4

    March 9th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  18 mins 59 secs
    airport, community, cultural encounter, kindness, naomi shihab nye, narrative poem, translation

    Remember airports? In this wonderful, narrative poem, Nye speaks of the remarkable capacity for community in a world of strangers.

  • Episode 18: Jenny Johnson, Dappled Things

    March 2nd, 2021  |  Season 2  |  27 mins 25 secs

    In this episode, Jenny Johnson discusses the sources of inspiration for her poem "Dappled Things," her love of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the incredible diversity--and fragility--of the natural world.

  • Episode 17: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty

    February 23rd, 2021  |  Season 2  |  14 mins 35 secs
    curtal sonnet, gerard manley hopkins, jesuit exercise, pied beauty, praise

    In this extraordinary curtal sonnet (a shortened sonnet, curtailed), Hopkins packs immense power. He uses the shortened form to heighten the emotion, drawing himself up short in the end with nothing else that can be said other than "Praise him." This week, we walk through these short lines and unfold some of the ways that Hopkins works.

  • Episode 16: John Milton, When I Consider How My Light is Spent

    February 15th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  15 mins 57 secs
    blindness, john milton, religious despair, sonnet, theology, wait, when i consider how my light is spent

    The episode explores Milton's great sonnet spun from the difficulties of middle age and new disappointments. We consider how he pulls consolation from his sense of defeat and near despair. Faced with his coming blindness, he hears the voice of Patience giving him the strength to wait.

  • Episode 15: Amanda Gorman, Chorus of the Captains

    February 9th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  17 mins 56 secs
    alliteration, amanda gorman, audience, chorus of the captains, football, genre, media, occasional poetry, super bowl

    Amanda Gorman became the first poet ever to perform at the Super Bowl on February 7, 2021. In this episode we talk about poetry for the masses, mass media, genres of poetry, spoken word, the visual and the verbal, and the mix of ancient methods with emergent forms.

  • Episode 14: George Herbert, The Collar

    February 1st, 2021  |  Season 2  |  18 mins 24 secs
    devotion, form, george herbert, religious poetry, restraint, seventeenth-century poetry, the collar

    In this episode, we look at "The Collar"--a famous single-stanza poem, playing with meter, rhythm, and rhyme by the seventeenth-century priest and poet, George Herbert.

  • Episode 13: Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb

    January 25th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  18 mins 48 secs
    amanda gorman, assonance, consonance, george washington, inaugural poems, intertextuality, john winthrop, lin-manuel miranda, maya angelou, occasional poetry, poets in conversation, the bible

    In this episode, we discuss Amanda Gorman's "The Hill We Climb," the poem that she recited at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. We discuss how well suited the poem is to its occasion, Gorman's powerful use of sound, and the conversation that she engages in--with John Winthrop, the Constitution, the Bible, George Washington, Maya Angelou, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Like everyone else in America, we are in love with this poem and hope you enjoy the discussion.

    For the full text of "The Hill We Climb," please see this page: https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/amanda-gorman-inaugural-poem-transcript/index.html

    For more on Amanda Gorman, please see personal website: https://www.theamandagorman.com/

  • Episode 12: James Merrill, Christmas Tree

    December 2nd, 2020  |  Season 1  |  21 mins 37 secs
    aids, christmas, concrete poems, elegy, illness, literary friendships, visual poems
  • Episode 11: Alberto Ríos, When Giving Is All We Have

    November 17th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  15 mins 46 secs
    alberto ríos, gift economy, giving, when giving is all we have

    In this episode, we read and discuss a poem about giving by Alberto Ríos, the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona.

  • Episode 10: Mary Jo Bang, The Head of a Dancer

    November 10th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  22 mins 22 secs
    bauhaus, ekphrasis, head of a dancer, lotte jacobi, lucia moholy, mary jo bang, prose poetry, voice

    This week Mary Jo Bang joins us! We learn about the Bauhaus movement and a photographer named Lucia Moholy. And we look at both ekphrastic poetry (poetry about an image) and prose poetry (poetry with no line breaks).

  • Episode 9: Anne Bradstreet, In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet

    October 27th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  14 mins 52 secs
    anne bradstreet, doubt, elegy, faith, in memory of my dear grandchild elizabeth bradstreet, multiple voices, puritan, repetition, sonnet

    This week we read Anne Bradstreet's elegy for her grandchild Elizabeth and draw out the multiple voices (both faith and doubt, both grief and consolation) and the tensions and deep emotions in the work of this talented Puritan poet--the first woman from British North America to publish a book of poems.