Poetry Unbound

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 Nov 2, 2020
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Description

Your new ritual: Immerse yourself in a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. Anchor your week by listening to the everyday poetry of your life, with new episodes on Monday and Friday during the season.

Episode Date
Layli Long Soldier — WHEREAS my eyes land on the shoreline
00:17:01

When you feel like crying, do you cry? Or do you stifle it? Why? 

The U.S. Congress 2009 “Joint resolution to acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes” stated Whereas the arrival of Europeans in North America opened a new chapter in the history of Native Peoples.” Layli Long Soldier wrote poems in response to this resolution and its non-consultative process. In this poem, she speaks of the need to let griefs and laments be heard and acknowledged.

Layli Long Soldier – is the recipient of the 2015 Lannan Fellowship for Poetry and a 2015 National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Her first book of poetry, WHEREAS, won the Whiting Award and was named a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Nov 27, 2020
Chen Chen — I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party
00:18:45

In this poem, a son writes to his parents and invites them to a meal, letting them know that his boyfriend will also be there. He gives instruction to his parents on how they should behave, parenting his parents. In all this family tension, the boyfriend’s question “What’s in that recipe again?” offers calm, and builds lines of connection that had otherwise seemed unlikely.

Chen Chen – is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which was longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry and won the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. He teaches at Brandeis University as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence. 

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Nov 23, 2020
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill — Ceist na Teangan (The Language Issue)
00:12:41

Are there languages that once were spoken in your family that are not anymore? What caused those changes? 

This poem considers the plight of a language, how it — like the child Moses in the biblical story of the Exodus — is vulnerable, and might be in need of someone like the Pharaoh’s daughter to nurture it. In considering the precarious situation of many lesser-spoken languages, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill casts a story of language preservation through the archetype of women helping women in ancient texts. 

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill – is one of the most prominent poets writing in the Irish language today. Her poetry collections include Pharaoh’s Daughter, The Astrakhan Cloak, and Cead Isteach/Entry Permitted. Her work has been translated into English by a number of well-known Irish poets, including Seamus Heaney, Medbh McGuckian, and Paul Muldoon.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Nov 20, 2020
Aracelis Girmay — Consider the Hands that Write this Letter
00:12:37

When you’re writing by hand, where is your other hand? What story is the space between your two hands — your dominant hand and non-dominant hand — telling?

This poem considers the posture of the body when writing: writing a letter, writing a note, writing a poem. The poet pays attention to hands — when dancing, when speaking from the heart, in prayer. This poem invites the listener to slow down, to listen to the stories the body is telling by how it's held in small moments.   

Aracelis Girmay is originally from Southern California and now lives in New York. She is the author of the poetry collections Teeth, Kingdom Animalia, and The Black Maria. Her essay "From Woe to Wonder" can be read in the Arts & Culture section of The Paris Review (June, 2020). Girmay recently edited How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton and she is on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Nov 16, 2020
Tayi Tibble — Our Nan Lets Us Smoke Inside
00:13:38

Who is in your chosen family? 

This poem considers the lines of loyalty in families and how particular memories, like a grandmother keeping “wishbones from chicken carcasses / in an empty margarine container on top of the fridge,” can be a portal to love. The nan in this poem is a character of generosity and permission, and we imagine her through stories of trips, funerals, and visits.

Tayi Tibble – (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui/Ngāti Porou) is a writer and poet who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Poūkahangatus is her first book.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

 

Nov 13, 2020
Paul Tran — The Cave
00:11:42

What have you had to explore on your own? What, or who, helped? 

This poem explores the archetype of the cave — a cave that calls, a cave that contains secrets and perhaps even information. “Someone standing at the mouth had / the idea to enter. To go further / than light or language could / go.” The poem manages — at once — to convey the bravery of exploration and the solitude and possibility that can accompany such journeys.

Paul Tran – is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and a Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Their work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, Good Morning America, NYLON, and elsewhere, including the RZA-directed movie Love Beats Rhymes alongside Azealia Banks, Common, and Jill Scott.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Nov 10, 2020
Philip Metres — One Tree
00:15:36

What do you notice about how you behave in times of conflict? Do you tend toward avoidance? Or compromise? Or collaboration? Or competition? Or accommodation?

This poem describes a conflict between neighbors: a tree hangs over a fence. The owners love this tree; their neighbors don’t. Somebody responds directly, somebody else avoids, a chainsaw appears. Suddenly this conflict becomes a parable for all conflicts, illustrating how deep they can go and how often they cannot be resolved with a question about what to do.

Philip Metres – is the author of Shrapnel Maps, Sand Opera, and The Sound of Listening: Poetry as Refuge and Resistance. He has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations, and received three Arab American Book Awards, the Adrienne Rich Award, and the Hunt Prize. He is a professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org

Nov 06, 2020
Roger Robinson — A Portable Paradise
00:11:49

How do you hold onto hope? And who helped you find it? 

This poem is about holding onto paradise in the midst of an environment that seeks to steal or quash it. Roger Robinson praises his grandmother who told him to “carry it always / on my person, concealed.” His deft language helps us understand that paradise is a quality of life; and, even deeper than that, paradise is your life.

Roger Robinson is a writer and performer who lives between London and Trinidad. His first full poetry collection, The Butterfly Hotel, was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize, and his latest book is A Portable Paradise. He is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Nov 02, 2020
Seán Hewitt — Suibhne is wounded, and confesses
00:13:23

In times of isolation, what stories have you turned to for comfort?  

This poem is an exploration of isolation as seen through the mythical Irish character, Suibhne. Suibhne was cursed and lived a life on the move, a transitory isolation. In the midst of the sadness at all he’s missed, he also sees beauty — and he holds both sadness and appreciation together.

Seán Hewitt was born in 1990 and studied English at the University of Cambridge. He is a fiction reviewer for The Irish Times and a Leverhulme Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. His awards include the Northern Writers' Award, the Resurgence Prize, and an Eric Gregory Award. His debut book of poetry is Tongues of Fire.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 30, 2020
Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi — Say My Name
00:14:00

What is the story of your name? 

In this poem, the poet calls on place, ancestors, and history to bear witness to the dignity of their name. They recall how their ancestors “acknowledged my roots grew in two / places” and how their name “is the definition of resilience.” With Black/Indigenous, Pasifika, and West Asian heritage, the poet speaks to those who mispronounce their name: “Say it right or don’t say it at all / for I am Meleika.”

Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi is a Black/Indigenous, Pasifika, and West Asian writer. Her work has been published internationally, including in Radio NZ, Nerdy PoC, Djed Press, The Big Issue, Overland literary journal and Endless Yarning. Meleika is a 2019 Next Chapter recipient from the Wheeler Centre.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 26, 2020
Lucille Clifton — song at midnight
00:12:55

In strength and defiance, Lucille Clifton celebrates her Black body and her survival. When have you said or heard words like this? 

Calling herself “both nonwhite and woman,” Lucille Clifton glories in her shape and fact of her life in these two poems. She invites the reader to witness everything she's lived through, and to celebrate the flourishing life that she has created in spite of everything that has tried to kill her.

Lucille Clifton was the author of several books of poetry including Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988–2000, which won the National Book Award, The Book of Light, and Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980. She served as poet laureate for the state of Maryland from 1979-1985 and was a distinguished professor of humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She died in 2010.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 23, 2020
Chris Abani — The New Religion
00:12:11

How do you speak of — and to — your body? 

This is a poem dedicated to the body. “The body is a nation I have never known,” Chris Abani writes. Throughout the 21 lines of this work, he describes lungs, skin, bone, touch, smells, sweat, armpits and hunger. For all the embodiedness of the poem, there is disembodiedness too: the poem continues to question how to truly be in your own body.

Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he has lived in the United States since 2001. He is Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. His poetry collections include Sanctificum and Hands Washing Water.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 19, 2020
Molly McCully Brown — Transubstantiation
00:12:28

Are there places you've lived or visited that others would disregard? What do you see in them that others might miss?" 

This poem takes place at night, describing a scene from a town on the edge of a city. The poet feels at home in a “nowhere” town, with cattle pacing in the fields, boarded houses, and rowdy filling stations. This is a place that through the eyes of some would be considered a “shit town,” but to the poet it is home.

Molly McCully Brown is the author of The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded, which was named a The New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, and the forthcoming essay collection, Places I’ve Taken My Body. She teaches at Kenyon College, where she is the Kenyon Review Fellow in Poetry.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 16, 2020
Natalie Diaz — Of Course She Looked Back
00:15:18

Is there a character (from history, politics, or literature) whose story you want to tell from a new perspective? 

This poem is told from the point of view of “Lot’s wife,” a biblical character who was turned into salt because she looked back to see the burning of Sodom, her home city. The poet shows us what Lot’s wife sees: towers swaying, guitars popping, dogs weeping and roosters howling. By mixing the modern with the everlasting, Lot’s wife is humanized and justified.

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. She was a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and has written two books of poetry, When My Brother Was an Aztec, and Postcolonial Love Poem. She teaches at the Arizona State University Creative Writing MFA program.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 12, 2020
Natasha Trethewey — Miscegenation
00:10:32

Were you born during a time when laws were different? What impact did those laws have on you? 

In this poem, Natasha Trethewey recalls the story of how her parents crossed state lines to wed because Mississippi forbade interracial marriage at the time. It is written in the form of a ghazal, with birth and belonging, names and death coming together.

Natasha Trethewey served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2012-2014. She is the author of a memoir, Memorial Drive, and five collections of poetry including Monument and Native Guard, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 09, 2020
James Wright — A Blessing
00:12:11

Is there a moment of beauty you can recall that’s like a blessing for you?

This poem takes place at twilight in a field just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, where the poet and a friend encounter two ponies who come “gladly out of the willows / To welcome my friend and me.”  

James Wright was a fellow of the Academy of American Poets and taught at he University of Minnesota, Macalester College, and New York City's Hunter College. He also served in the U.S. Army, and was stationed in Japan during World War II. His book Collected Poems received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He died on March 25, 1980.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Oct 05, 2020
Gregory Pardlo — Wishing Well
00:15:35

What’s a chance encounter in a city that’s never left you? 

In this poem the speaker is asked a question by a stranger while standing near the water outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. “Pardon me Old School he / says you know is this a wishing well?” He initially brushes off the stranger, but something happens: a shared coin, a well, a wish that is answered as it is made.

Gregory Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection Digest. He is poetry editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) and Director of the MFA program at Rutgers University-Camden. His most recent book is Air Traffic, a memoir in essays.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org

Oct 02, 2020
Ada Limón — Wonder Woman
00:16:07

What stories or myths bring you strength?

This poem tells the story of a person living with invisible chronic pain who finds unexpected fortitude from a girl dressed as a superhero. Their encounter, “at the swell of the muddy Mississippi,” doesn’t have a fantasy ending, but instead finds strength and glory in bodies and myth.

Ada Limón is the author of five books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was named one of the best poetry books of the year by The Washington Post. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency MFA program.

Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.

Sep 28, 2020
Poetry Unbound — Season 2 Trailer
00:01:30

Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, Sept. 28. Featured poets in this season include Lucille Clifton, James Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Christian Wiman, Layli Long Soldier and more. New episodes released every Monday and Friday through the fall. 

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, or wherever you listen.

Sep 14, 2020
A Poem in Gratitude for Health Care Workers
00:11:49

In Leanne O’Sullivan’s poem “Leaving Early,” the poet writes to her ill husband, entrusting him into the care of a nurse named Fionnuala. As the novel coronavirus sweeps the globe, many of us can’t physically be there for loved ones who are sick. Instead, it is the health care workers — and all involved in the health care system — who are tirelessly present, caring for others in spite of exhaustion and the risk it brings to their own wellbeing.

We offer this episode of Poetry Unbound in profound gratitude toward all who are working in health care right now.

About the Poet:

“Leaving Early” comes from Leanne O’Sullivan’s book A Quarter of an Hour. Thank you to the publisher, Bloodaxe Books, who gave us permission to use Leanne’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Apr 03, 2020
Help Shape the Next Season of Poetry Unbound
00:01:22

Poetry Unbound will be back with new episodes this fall. We’re so grateful to those who welcomed the podcast into their lives, and we’d love to hear more about your listening experience. What did you love? What can we improve? And what poetry, poets, or topics would you like to hear host Pádraig Ó Tuama talk about? Take the short survey at onbeing.org/pusurvey.

Mar 23, 2020
A Poem for How Friendship Endures
00:06:37

Emily Dickinson’s poem “1383” honors the friendships that endure across time, circumstance, and even misunderstanding. Akin to fire, the connections in these friendships may be strong enough to burn or hurt us, but Dickinson acknowledges that their light continues to draw us in regardless.

After listening, we invite you to reflect on this question: Think about a friendship that has remained steady for you across the years, even as both of you have changed. Why do you think your relationship has endured?

About the Poet:

Emily Dickinson was a 19th-century American poet from Amherst, Mass. She wrote around 1,800 poems in her life, and her first collection of poetry was published posthumously in 1890.

“1383” comes from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Thank you to Harvard University Press, who published the book and gave us permission to use Emily’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Mar 20, 2020
A Poem About When We’re Disbelieved
00:10:02

Raymond Antrobus’s poem “Miami Airport” bears witness to the disempowerment that comes when you’re not believed. The voice of the poet is absent, and all we hear is an interrogator seeking to disrupt and displace. This space of suspicion creates anxiety, transporting us to the places and times when someone has questioned the truth of our story.

A question to reflect on after you listen: When have you felt disempowered by questions about yourself? Did you find your voice again? How?

About the Poet:

Raymond Antrobus is a freelance poet and teacher. He is one of the world’s first recipients of a MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London and is the recipient of the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society (judged by Ocean Vuong). He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works iii, and Jerwood Compton Poetry.

Miami Airport” comes from Raymond Antrobus’s book The Perseverance. Thank you to Penned in the Margins, who published the book and gave us permission to use Raymond’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Mar 16, 2020
A Poem About the Beauty of Home
00:08:27

Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “The One” is about seeing beauty in the ordinary places of home. One of Ireland’s most famous poets, Kavanagh grew up in rural County Monaghan and moved to Dublin as a young man. This poem revisits the boglands of his home, which he once hated but came to love. 

A question to reflect on after you listen: Think about where you’re from. How has your understanding of it changed over time?

About the Poet:

Patrick Kavanagh was a prominent Irish poet and writer who died in 1967. His books include the memoir, The Green Fool, the novel Tarry Flynn, and the poetry collections The Great Hunger, The Complete Poems of Patrick Kavanagh, and Collected Poems.

“The One” comes from Patrick Kavanagh’s book Collected Poems, edited by Antoinette Quinn. Thank you to the trustees of the late Katherine B. Kavanagh Estate and to the Jonathan Williams Literary Agency, for letting us use Patrick’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Mar 13, 2020
A Poem for Keeping Memory Alive
00:09:17

Ali Cobby Eckermann’s poem “Kulila” insists on remembering as a moral act. Through the poem, the Aboriginal poet mourns the loss of Indigenous cultures in Australia and how they have been damaged and changed by colonization. Cobby Eckermann calls her readers to a place of listening and lament as a way to keep alive the memory of who we are and who we could’ve been.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What in your culture or community needs to be lamented, honored, and told?

About the Poet:

Ali Cobby Eckermann is a Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal poet and the author of seven books, including Ruby Moonlight, the poetry collections Inside My Mother, and a memoir, Too Afraid to Cry. She is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize in Poetry from Yale University.

“Kulila” comes from Ali Cobby Eckermann’s book Inside My Mother. Thank you to Giramondo Publishing, who published the book and gave us permission to use Ali’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Mar 09, 2020
A Poem for Letting Yourself Be
00:05:42

Kei Miller’s poem “Book of Genesis” asks us to imagine a God who makes things spring into life specifically for us. Just as the poet of Genesis proclaims, “Let there be,” Miller wonders what freedom and flourishing we’d find in imagining a “Let” pronounced not for the person others say we should be, but for the person we are.

A question to reflect on after you listen: How can you begin to let yourself flourish today, just as you are?

About the Poet:

Kei Miller is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Exeter. His books of poetry include The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, winner of the Forward poetry prize, There Is an Anger That Moves, and A Light Song of Light. His novels include The Last Warner Woman and most recently, Augustown.

“Book of Genesis” comes from Kei Miller’s book There Is an Anger That Moves. Thank you to Carcanet Press Limited, who gave us permission to use Kei’s poem. You can read it on our website, at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Mar 06, 2020
A Poem to See What's Overlooked
00:09:50

Lemn Sissay’s poem “Some Things I Like” celebrates what we might consider discardable — like cold tea, ash trays, and even people. Raising a joyous toast to the forgotten and the forgettable, Sissay recognizes the power we give to what we pay attention to and invites us to look anew at all that has been undervalued. 

A question to reflect on after you listen: What is something you like that others may not value in the same way?

About the Poet:

Lemn Sissay is a poet, playwright, and broadcaster. He contributes regularly to BBC radio and is a BAFTA-nominated, international prize-winning writer. His awards include a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to literature by the Queen of England, the PEN Pinter Prize, and a Points of Light Award from the prime minister of England. His books of poetry include Listener, Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist, and Rebel without Applause. His memoir is My Name is Why.

“Some Things I Like” comes from Lemn Sissay’s book Listener. Thank you to Canongate, who published the book and gave us permission to use Lemn’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Mar 02, 2020
A Poem for All That Life Brings
00:07:17

Joy Harjo’s poem “Praise the Rain” makes space to appreciate all the nuances of our lives. Echoing Rumi’s poem “The Guest House,” she asks us to be present to this moment — the crazy or the sad, the beginning or the end — to greet it all with the powerful word: “Praise.”

A question to reflect on after you listen: What can you praise today?

About the Poet:

Joy Harjo is the 23rd poet laureate of the United States and a writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She has written nine books of poetry, several plays and children's books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave. She is also a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

“Praise the Rain” comes from Joy Harjo’s book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Thank you to W.W. Norton, who published the book, and to Joy for letting us use her poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Feb 28, 2020
A Poem to Notice Openings and Closings
00:08:55

Ross Gay’s poem “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” uses an everyday task to examine what is made and unmade in small moments. He imagines his fingers opening and closing things, like buttons, the eyes of a dead person, relationships. In doing so, the poem asks us to simply pay attention, today, to what we’re doing with our hands — to understand them as intimate pathways into the stories of our bodies and the stories of our lives.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What have you done with your hands today? What are you opening? What are you closing?

About the Poet:

Ross Gay is a writer and a professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington. His books include the poetry collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a book of essays, The Book of Delights. He is a board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard and a co-founder of The Tenderness Project.

“Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” comes from Ross Gay’s book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Thank you to the University of Pittsburgh Press, who published the book, and gave us permission to use Ross’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Feb 24, 2020
A Poem for Complicated Stories of Love
00:08:08

Allison Funk’s poem “The Prodigal’s Mother Speaks to God” tells the age-old story of The Prodigal Son through a new voice: the unnamed woman of the parable. This woman is truthful, wise, and loving. She knows the dedications and limitations of love. She seeks to see clearly, even though it’s hard to see clearly. 

A question to reflect on after you listen: When has love been complicated for you?

About the Poet:

Allison Funk is a distinguished professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her books include The Knot Garden, The Tumbling Box, and Wonder Rooms. Her forthcoming book is The Visible Woman. Her honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the George Kent Prize from Poetry Magazine, and the Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America.

"The Prodigal's Mother Speaks to God" comes from Alison Funk’s book The Knot Garden. Thank you to Sheep Meadow Press, who published the book, and gave us permission to use Alison’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Feb 21, 2020
A Poem on the Importance of Names
00:09:09

Jane Mead’s “Substance Abuse Trial” is set in a courtroom where a daughter hears her father’s name mispronounced at his trial. As she watches this, she wishes that the court could see the fullness of her father and his story — to bear witness to him as a human being, defined by much more than his addiction.

A question to reflect on after you listen: When was a time when you were judged based on a mistake you made, rather than the fullness of who you are?

About the Poet:

Jane Mead authored five poetry collections during her life including The Lord and the General Din of the World, The Usable Field, and World of Made and Unmade. Winner of a Griffin Poetry Prize and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, Jane taught at various institutions throughout her life including Colby College, Washington University, and New England College. She was a long-time poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. She died on September 8, 2019.

"Substance Abuse Trial" comes from Jane Mead’s book The Lord and the General Din of the World. Thank you to Alice James Books, who published the book, and to The Permissions Company, who let us use Jane’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Feb 17, 2020
A Poem for Tenderness in the Face of Violence
00:11:30

Ocean Vuong’s poem “Seventh Circle of Earth” is an homage to the love and intimacy shared by Michael Humphrey and Clayton Capshaw, a gay couple who were murdered in their home in Dallas, Texas. In the midst of recognizing the violence and threat LGBTQI communities face, the poem holds space for tenderness — and honors their love.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What examples have you seen of love and power enacted, even in the face of threat?

About the poet:

Ocean Vuong is an assistant professor in the MFA program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts — Amherst. His New York Times bestselling novel is On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, and his poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize and Whiting Award. In 2019, Vuong was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Grant.

“Seventh Circle of Earth” comes from Ocean Vuong’s book Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Thank you to Copper Canyon Press, who published the book, and to Ocean for letting us use his poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

 

Feb 14, 2020
A Poem for the Space Between Us
00:08:32

Tracy K. Smith’s poem “Song” is filled with observations of a loved person: their habits, the things they do when they think nobody is watching. Love is shown and celebrated in observing the small practices of another.  

A question to reflect on after you listen: What’s something small and quiet you’ve noticed about a loved one?

About the poet:

Tracy K. Smith is a professor of creative writing at Princeton University and the former poet laureate of the United States. Her poetry collections include Life on Mars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Duende, and The Body’s Prize. Her memoir is Ordinary Light, and she also hosts the podcast, The Slowdown.

“Song” comes from Tracy K. Smith’s book Life on Mars. Thank you to Graywolf Press, who published the book and to The Permissions Company, who let us use Tracy’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan

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Feb 10, 2020
A Poem for What Comes with Age
00:08:16

Marie Howe’s poem “My Mother’s Body” is wise about age. In the poem, Marie’s mother is young enough to be Marie’s own daughter, and in this imagination there is wonder, understanding, and even forgiveness. 

A question to reflect on after you listen: Are there things that you have found easier to understand — or even forgive — as you’ve gotten older?

About the poet:

Marie Howe is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She’s published four collections of poetry: What the Living Do, The Good Thief, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, and Magdalene. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Dartmouth College, and New York University.

“My Mother’s Body” comes from Marie Howe’s book The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. Thank you to W.W. Norton, who published the book and gave us permission to use Marie’s poem. Read it on onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Feb 07, 2020
A Poem for Ritual and Reset
00:08:34

Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem “Prayer” describes a practice of devotion. It’s a spacious and hospitable poem, filled with references to ritual and the body, and an invitation to share in the warm light of a household lamp. 

A question to reflect on after you listen: What rituals do you use to anchor yourself?

About the poet:

Faisal Mohyuddin is a writer, artist, and educator. He is the author of The Displaced Children of Displaced Children, winner of the 2017 Sexton Prize in Poetry and a 2018 Summer Recommendation of the Poetry Book Society. He teaches English at Highland Park High School in Illinois, serves as an educator adviser to the global not-for-profit Narrative 4, and lives with his family in Chicago.

“Prayer” comes from Faisal Mohyuddin’s book The Displaced Children of Displaced Children. Thank you to Eyewear Publishing, who published the book and gave us permission to use Faisal’s poem. Read it on onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Feb 03, 2020
A Poem About What Grounds You
00:08:19

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance” offers a way to ground yourself during vulnerable moments. The poet gathers strength from being loved, which helps her in times of displacement.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What stories do you hold on to when you're feeling displaced?

About the poet:

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is a professor of English and creative writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi. She also serves as the poetry editor for Orion magazine. Her books include Lucky Fish, At the Drive-In Volcano, Miracle Fruit, and Oceanic. Her upcoming book of illustrated essays is World of Wonders. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance” comes from Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s book Oceanic. Thank you to Copper Canyon Press, who published the book, and to Aimee for letting us use her poem. Read it on onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Jan 31, 2020
A Poem for What You Learn Alone
00:08:22

Brad Aaron Modlin’s poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” speaks of learning to grow up by yourself. The poet wonders what life lessons would look like if they could be taught by a teacher; a good teacher, a teacher like Mrs. Nelson.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What life lessons did you have to learn by yourself?

About the poet: Brad Aaron Modlin is the Reynolds Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He holds a PhD from Ohio University and an MFA from Bowling Green State.

“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” comes from Brad Aaron Modlin’s book Everyone at This Party Has Two Names. Thank you to Southeast Missouri State University Press, which published the book and gave us permission to use Brad’s poem. Find the full poem at onbeing.org.

Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.

The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.

Jan 27, 2020
Welcome to Poetry Unbound
00:01:22

Poetry Unbound features an immersive exploration of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. Proudly produced by On Being Studios. Anchor your week with new episodes on Monday and Friday, beginning January 27. 

This season features poetry from a diverse cast of poets: current and former poets laureate Joy Harjo and Tracy K. Smith; T.S. Eliot Prize winner Ocean Vuong; classic poets like Emily Dickinson and Patrick Kavanagh; spoken-word artists like Raymond Antrobus; and more.

About the host: Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, conflict mediator — and the host of our new podcast, Poetry Unbound. His books include a prayer book, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, a book of poetry, Sorry for Your Troubles, and a memoir, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

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Dec 23, 2019