More Fun (and inspiring) Than a Barrel of Poetic Monkeys…. Poetry Podcasts

runningIt’s the new year, (okay it’s February, but I still count it as the close to the new year), and even poets might make a resolution to exercise a little more. But what if that natural high from your walk or working out on the treadmill or exercise bike just aren’t enough to motivate you? This week I discovered the Poetry Foundation’s collection of podcasts. These little gems are great incentives for me to hit the road with my iPod firmly in place. Sure, I might not be communing with nature that much, but right now “nature” on my roadway is cinder encrusted snow banks and half-melted dog-doo. I can try to look beyond at the fresh rivulets of snow melt but it helps to have something cool to listen to as well.

If you search for “poetry” in the podcasts section of the iTunes store, you’ll come up with dozens of options but the Poetry Foundation’s podcasts are the most reliably inspiring. You can choose to subscribe to:

  • Poetry Magazine Podcast (Editors Christian Wiman and Don Share go inside the pages of Poetry, talking to poets and critics, debating the issues, and sharing their poem selections with listeners.)
  • Poetry Off The Shelf (Producer Curtis Fox explores the diverse world of contemporary American poetry with readings by poets, interviews with critics, and short poetry documentaries. Nothing is off limits, and nobody is taken too seriously.)
  • Poetry Lectures (Talks given by notable scholars and critics on poets, poetry, and their intersections with other art forms. Features recordings from historic archives and live events.)
  • Poem of the Day (Great classic and contemporary poems read by poets and actors delivered every day.)
  • Avant-Garde All the Time (Poet Kenneth Goldsmith presents selections from UbuWeb, the learned and varietous online repository concerning concrete & sound poetry, experimental film, outsider art and all things avant-garde.)
  • Poem Talk (Kelly Writers House impresario Al Filreis leads a lively roundtable discussion of a single poem with a series of rotating guests including Linh Dinh, Randall Couch, Jessica Lowenthal, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, erica kaufman, and others.)
  • Essential American Poets (Listen to Donald Hall’s selection of classic American Poets reading from their work. These recordings are being made available as the result of a collaboration between the U.S. and U.K poet laureates Donald Hall and Andrew Motion.)

My iPod runneth over, and hopefully all of the FREE podcasts will help keep me motivated to keep on exercising. If you’re interested in learning more about these podcasts, check out the audio/podcast section of the Poetry Foundation’s website.

Please add any other podcast suggestions to the comments! I need all the inspiration I can get.

My Hero – a violinist with a cause

In the wake of the tragedy that occurred in Haiti, I’ve been at a loss for how to best help. The losses have seemed so staggering, nothing felt like enough. And yet… and yet… I donated to Doctors Without Borders and dumped my ALL of my change in the school coin drive for the Red Cross. And yet… my heart still felt like it hasn’t done enough.

Well, enter Franny, my beautiful and talented niece. Her mother sent me an email today with the following message:

A couple of pictures from Franny’s benefit “concert” for Haiti today. We went down to the Embarcadero (at the port of San Diego) from 2:00 – 2:45. So many people stopped, said nice things and dropped some money in the case. All told, Franny made $109.96 in that short time. I then drove her up to the Red Cross headquarters in San Diego so that she could make her cash donation in person.



What does this have to do with poetry? EVERYTHING! Franny has taken her artistic passion and made a difference for people in need. She’s my hero.

Please consider leaving a comment for Franny. She knows how special she is, but it surely couldn’t hurt for her to hear it a few more times.

Refilling the Well

wellTo follow on my previous post regarding ennui, or perhaps inertia, I wonder if might not be pertinent to write about recharging. There are plenty of ways to do it, even though in mid-winter I tend to forget about all of them and wallow around in suspension and frustration.

The easiest way of refilling your well of ideas and ambition is to get out of your routine – go for a walk in a new area of town, take a long drive, visit a museum, go to the library, or dine in a restaurant with a cuisine you’ve never tried before. But what if you are like me and you live in a little town – no new restaurant, no museum with rotating exhibits, a small library, no roads to explore? While I still highly recommend getting out and walking someplace you haven’t been recently, I do concede that you can nourish your writing self with books. That’s right, books.

There are a few books that I return to when I’m feeling stuck, without traction, or just plain bored with myself. I’ll put a plug in here for Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity: the first of its kind, this book is what put many of frustrated artist on the way to creating a life that includes and honors their art. Another book along the same lines that has been really helpful for me lately is Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally by Patty Digh. Although this book is not slanted towards writers, it has reminded to take my writing (and myself) seriously.

One book of poetry exercises that always jolts me awake is Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Wooldridge. This book has an exuberance that never fails to make my poet-self feel nurtured and understood. Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry addresses not only the techniques of writing poetry but a way to live that fosters writing poetry. Along those same lines is Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford, a book that never fails to remind me of what a poet’s life looks like.

Finally, I’d like to tip my hat to the fact that when I feel empty, I often return to books of poetry that I admire. There is nothing like re-reading a favorite collection to recharge me and also to fill my mind with the shape of good poetry. I’ve mentioned Li-Young Lee’s book Behind My Eyes as one of my current favorites. Another that I return to often is Collected Poems: Dylan Thomas – an oldie but a goodie.

I am hoping that you’ll take a moment to post a comment that includes your suggestions for books that refill your well, whether they are “how to,” inspirational or books that you return to remind you of what good writing looks like (and feels like).

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