16 minutes | Apr 12, 2023
Bonus: Radical Reversal in Birmingham
Radical Reversal highlights the reformative abilities of the arts by bringing poetry, music, and music production workshops—along with performance and recordings spaces—to detention centers and correctional facilities. In this bonus episode, Radical Reversal co-founder Randall Horton shares recordings from three youth writers and performers who worked with Radical Reversal at Jefferson County Youth Detention Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Poet Patrick Rosal makes a guest appearance on flute for the track "Aint No Love in the Streets."To watch readings by poets whose work engages with the crisis of mass incarceration in the US, check out Voca for recordings from the Poetry Center's Art for Justice series.
28 minutes | Mar 29, 2023
Manuel Paul López: Small and Immense Mysteries
Manuel Paul López curates poems that draw us into the nourishing mysteries of water. He shares Ofelia Zepeda’s evocation of moisture’s deep ties to people and land ("The Place Where Clouds Are Formed"), Li-Young Lee’s meditation on weeping and the gifts given by those we’ve lost ("'Why are you crying,' my father asked…"), and Quincy Troupe’s precise, tender visions of sunlight and sea ("The Point Loma Series of Haikus and Tankas"). López closes with "Green Water," his own meditation on "the wild taste of self-preservation." You can watch the full recordings of Zepeda, Lee, and Troupe reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Ofelia Zepeda (2015)Li-Young Lee (2020)Quincy Troupe (2001)
39 minutes | Aug 24, 2022
Evie Shockley: Courage to Speak, Courage to Hear
Poet and professor Evie Shockley introduces poems woven together by a subtle thread of committed attention to place and what happens there—the places of language, self, ancestry, and tragedy. She introduces Mónica de la Torre engaging with languages as wild topography ("Is to Travel Getting to or Being in a Destination"), Marilyn Chin uncovering the political territory of the self ("A Portrait of Self as Nation: 1990-1991"), and Nikky Finney channeling the ancestors into the present ("The Girlfriend's Train"). Shockley closes with poem that sits with the terrible resonances of place names turned into a catalog of violence ("les milles"). Find the full recordings of de la Torre, Chin, and Finney reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Mónica de la Torre (2008)Marilyn Chin (1996)Nikky Finney (2019) You can also watch a 2019 recording of Evie Shockley reading work commissioned as part of the Poetry Center’s Art for Justice series.Have you checked out the new Voca interface? It’s easier than ever to browse readings, and individual tracks can be shared. Many readings now include captions and transcripts, and we're working hard to make sure every reading will have these soon.
33 minutes | Aug 10, 2022
JD Pluecker: Always Returning
Undisciplinary writer and translator JD Pluecker curates recordings that circle around themes of return, transformation, history, and the future. Pluecker introduces Joy Harjo finding what remains in the wreckage (“New Orleans”), Andrea Lawlor considering how one thing turns into another (excerpt from “Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl”), and C.D. Wright turning herself into an ancestor (“Our Dust”). Pluecker closes by reading “Return Unsettlement,” which asks whether anything is ever quite gone or has ever quite arrived. Enjoy the full recordings of Harjo, Lawlor, and Wright reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Joy Harjo (1987)Andrea Lawlor (2019)C.D. Wright (2000) You can also watch a recording of JD Pluecker reading in 2019 as part of the language experimentation collective Antena Aire, in collaboration with Myriam Moscona. Have you checked out the new Voca interface? It’s easier than ever to browse readings, and individual tracks can be shared. Many readings now include captions and transcripts, and we're working hard to make sure every reading will have these soon.
65 minutes | Jul 27, 2022
Juan Felipe Herrera: Humanity, Compassion, Action, Protest
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera shares poems that consider the questions, what exactly is poetry? What does it do? Herrera crafts an expansive answer to these questions through Marvin Bell’s reflection on poetry as philosophy (“The Poem”), Denise Levertov’s engagement with truth in sacred spaces (“The Day the Audience Walked Out on Me, and Why”), and Lorna Dee Cervantes’s assertion that poetry is the force and form of resistance (“From the Bus to E.L. at Atascadero State Hospital”). To close, Herrera shares his poem “For George Floyd, Who Was a Great Man,” a work that encapsulates humanity, compassion, action, and protest. You can listen to the full recordings of Bell, Levertov, and Cervantes reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Marvin Bell (1977)Denise Levertov (1973) Lorna Dee Cervantes (1991) You can also enjoy two recordings of Juan Felipe Herrera on Voca, from 1993 and 2009. Have you checked out the new Voca interface? It’s easier than ever to browse readings, and individual tracks can be shared. Many readings now include captions and transcripts, and we're working hard to make sure every reading will have these soon.
26 minutes | Mar 30, 2022
Matthew Zapruder: Poems for Passengers
Matthew Zapruder selects poems that employ the powers of song, memory, and imagination as points of reflection and comfort amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He shares Adam Zagajewski conjuring a life lost to his family (“To Go to Lvov”), Gerald Stern recognizing the fortunate circumstances of his domestic and writing lives (“Lucky Life”), and Li-Young Lee traversing his own psychic landscape (“I Loved You Before I Was Born”). Zapruder closes by reading his “Poem for Passengers,” which celebrates public spaces and the momentary relief from differences they can afford. You can find the full recordings of Zagajewski, Stern, and Lee reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Adam Zagajewski (1989)Gerald Stern (1983)Li-Young Lee (2020) You can also watch a reading by Zapruder for the Poetry Center from 2019.
32 minutes | Mar 16, 2022
Khadijah Queen: Keywords
Khadijah Queen homes in on her selections by following three keywords through the archive: disobedience, Detroit, and joy. She introduces Rachel Zucker’s lecture on the confessional mode in poetry (“What We Talk About When We Talk About the Confessional and What We Should Be Talking About”), francine j. harris’s lyric dense with complicated emotions (“katherine with the lazy eye. short. and not a good poet.”), and Monica Sok’s poem of gentle power in the face of trauma (“The Woman Who Was Small, Not Because the World Expanded”). Queen closes by reading “Declination,” which approaches her chosen keywords through the lens of making art. Watch the full recordings of Zucker, harris, and Sok reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Rachel Zucker, lecture (2016)francine j. harris (2015)Monica Sok (2020) You can also find a reading by Khadijah Queen on Voca, which was given in 2016.
24 minutes | Mar 2, 2022
Sara Borjas: A Particular 'Us'
Sara Borjas introduces poems that focus on the connections between a particular, collective ‘us’—people connected by lineage or language, by place, or by the acts of writing and reading. She shares Layli Long Soldier’s exploration of wholeness and mother-daughter relationships (“WHEREAS her birth signaled…”), Juan Felipe Herrera’s centering of people and complexity (“Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way”), and Richard Siken’s breaking of the fourth wall to implicate the reader (“Planet of Love”). To close, Borjas reads her poem “Narcissus Complicates an Old Plot,” a celebration of mothers and daughters, language, and community rooted in place. Watch the full recordings of Long Soldier, Herrera, and Siken reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Layli Long Soldier (2017)Juan Felipe Herrera (2009)Richard Siken (2002)Transcripts for each episode are available here. Click on the episode title, then click on the transcript tab at the bottom of the player. Poems are transcribed as read and do not represent the published work.
18 minutes | Feb 16, 2022
Chet’la Sebree: Liminality
Chet’la Sebree leads us to acknowledge liminal spaces, those places that are not quite one thing or another, moments of transition and not-yet that have become so familiar to us throughout the pandemic. Sebree introduces Camille T. Dungy’s recognition that grief relentlessly intrudes on joy (“Notes on What Is Always with Us”), Brenda Shaughnessy’s reflection on the difficulties of understanding time (“Three Summers Mark Only Two Years”), and Ada Limón’s transformative rendering of relationships (“What I Didn’t Know Before”). Sebree closes with a new poem of her own on liminality, “Blue Opening.” Watch the full recordings of Dungy, Shaughnessy, and Limón reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Camille T. Dungy (2016)Brenda Shaughnessy (2005)Ada Limón (2018)
23 minutes | Feb 2, 2022
Anthony Cody: Necessary Discomfort
Anthony Cody selects poems that ask hard questions about war, borders, gender, power, US history, and ourselves—questions asked in order to remind us of the discomfort necessary for change on individual and collective levels. Cody shares Pat Mora’s inversion of relationships between speaker and audience, pursuer and pursued (“La Migra”), Michael S. Harper’s use of staccato repetition to sear atrocity into memory (“A White Friend Flies in from the Coast”), and Diana García’s revelation of truths that span generations (Excerpts from “Serpentine Voices”). Cody closes with his translation of Juan Felipe Herrera’s “Dudo las Luces / I Question the Lights,” which draws attention to the forgotten in our political landscape. You can find the full recordings of Mora, Harper, and García reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Pat Mora (1996)Michael S. Harper (1973)Diana García (2002)
25 minutes | Jan 19, 2022
Wendy Xu: Why Write
Wendy Xu curates poems that underscore the necessity of attention for the writing of poems, reminding us that to write is to think, to look, and to be present. She introduces James Tate on bending reality through attention to everything (“Rescue”), Mei-mei Berssenbrugge on the connection between the spiritual and the somatic (“Hello, the Roses”), and Joyelle McSweeney on being unafraid of excess (“Percussion Grenade”). Xu closes with her poem “Why Write,” which engages with the past as a living, risky force.You can find the full recordings of Tate, Berssenbrugge, and McSweeney reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:James Tate (1968)Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (2010)Joyelle McSweeney (2012)
17 minutes | Oct 13, 2021
Eduardo C. Corral: The Possibilities
Eduardo C. Corral introduces recordings by poets who create and encourage possibilities for others through their inquisitive teaching, their artistic commitment to mystery, or by being fully themselves. He celebrates Beckian Fritz Goldberg’s dedication to delight and surprise (“The Possibilities”), Bei Dao’s inscrutability for the way it affirms the human condition (“Landscape Over Zero”), and Francisco X. Alarcón’s generous spirit and embodiment of what a poet can look like (“Ode to Tomatoes”). To close, Corral reads his poem “To Francisco X. Alarcón,” delving into the impact this elder poet has had on his own writing life. You can find the full recordings of Goldberg, Dao, and Alarcón reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Beckian Fritz Goldberg (1994)Bei Dao with Dennis Evans (1999)Francisco X. Alarcón (2008) Watch a 2013 reading by Corral on Voca, as well as a reading given with Natalie Diaz at Tucson High Magnet School, which includes an extensive Q&A with students.
19 minutes | Sep 29, 2021
Sumita Chakraborty: Odes to the Overlooked
Sumita Chakraborty curates poems that draw our attention to the overlooked: to the body’s cycles, to cruelty, to deep attention, to trauma and what comes after. She introduces Lucille Clifton on accepting change and growth (“to my last period”), Ai on the link between violence and loss (“Cruelty”), and Nora Naranjo Morse on vulnerability as potential blessing (“Sometimes I Am a Sponge”). Chakraborty closes by reading her own exploration of the complexities of PTSD, written to an extraterrestrial audience: “The B-Sides of the Golden Records, Track Five: ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.’” You can find the full recordings of Clifton, Ai, and Naranjo Morse reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Lucille Clifton (2007)Ai (1972)Nora Naranjo Morse (1992)
17 minutes | Sep 15, 2021
Silvina López Medin: Writing about Writing
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’s translator Ellen Doré Watson), and Anne Carson on making marks (“Short Talk On Homo Sapiens”). López Medin concludes with her poem “I Am Writing This in My Head, My Hands Inside Gloves That Don’t Match,” which considers how the lost lingers in what remains. You can find the full recordings of Hass, Prado as read by Watson, and Carson reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Robert Hass (1979)Adélia Prado, read by her translator Ellen Doré Watson (1992)Anne Carson (2001)
23 minutes | Sep 1, 2021
Adam O. Davis: Sonic Road Trip
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 speaking across time (“I Know a Man”). Davis closes by reading his poem “Interstate Highway System,” his own plea for living sparked by a 2015 road trip across America. You can find the full recordings of Nathaniel Mackey, Maurya Simon, and Robert Creeley reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Nathaniel Mackey with jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell (2013)Maurya Simon (2019)Robert Creeley (1963) Check out Davis’s Index of Haunted Houses Hotline by calling 619-329-5757.
17 minutes | Aug 18, 2021
Adrian Matejka: Cruelty
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 cruelty as it begins with slavery (“The Slave Ship Desire”). To close, Matejka reads his poem “Somebody Else Sold the World,” which considers the complexities of cruelty in the context of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Listen to the full recordings of Ai, Clifton, and Young reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Ai (1972)Lucille Clifton (1983)Al Young (1997) You can also watch a 2016 reading by Adrian Matejka on Voca.
25 minutes | Aug 4, 2021
Joanna Klink: A Blazing Intensity
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 Diminishment,” an intimate, interior landscape of silences and withheld speech. You can find the full recordings of Anderson, Bitsui, and Gregg reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Jon Anderson (1984)Sherwin Bitsui, as part of “Multilingual Poetry of the Southwest” (2010)Linda Gregg (1981)
54 minutes | May 5, 2021
Rosa Alcalá: Bodies, Presence, Performance
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 piece on race and racism (“Betraying Blackness”). Alcalá concludes by reading her poem “You in Cutoffs,” which looks back at the self in the past, a body lifted above a crowd. Watch the full recordings of Roberto Tejada, Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop, and Black Took Collective on Voca:Roberto Tejada (2013)Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop (2011)Black Took Collective (2012) You can also watch several readings by Rosa Alcalá on Voca, including her most recent from 2020.
24 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Bojan Louis: The Poem, Listening
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 Cages”). Louis closes with a recently published ghazal (“Ghazal VI”) of his own. Listen to the full recordings of Dugan, Long Soldier, and Nafis reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Alan Dugan (1966)Layli Long Solider (2017)Angel Nafis (2019) Listen to a 2019 reading by Bojan Louis on Voca.
28 minutes | Apr 7, 2021
Peggy Robles-Alvarado: Whistle, Hum, and Heartbeat When Negotiating Identity
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 (“How to Triumph Like a Girl”). Robles-Alvarado concludes with her own poem “Stunting,” a piece sparked by exploring the archive and reflecting on the restorative power of poetry. Listen to the full recordings of Derricotte, Ortiz Cofer, and Limón reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:Toi Derricotte (1992)Judith Ortiz Cofer (1991) Ada Limón (2018)