In celebration of National Poetry Month, I couldn’t resist sharing this amazing series of short videos made for former-poet laureate Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project. I’ve known about Pinsky’s project for years now (he’s a fellow Rutgers alum!), but I didn’t know about the videos until my friend Joan mentioned them last month. I’ve been slowly making my through the archives ever since.
These short videos feature a range of people reading and talking about poems they love.
Their stories about the poems are often deeply moving. And just listening to them read, I frequently find a new appreciation for the poems. I especially like listening to Alexander Scherr’s reading of Elizabeth Bishop’s “At the Fishhouses.” (But then again, I’m likely to be drawn to anything by Bishop.)
Which Favorite Poem video is your favorite?
I really like the ‘new’ Jimi Hendrix album released earlier this month. There are a lot of good, previously-unreleased recordings on People, Hell and Angels. Even after a lifetime of admiration, Hendrix’s work still blows me away. I especially like “Somewhere.”
Shortly before People, Hell and Angels was released, I went searching online for video of Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” performance at Woodstock. I’ve been thinking a lot about patriotism as I write my book, and something about that performance — the force of its innovation, its venue and context in time — seems particularly complex and loaded.
(Note: One family story I’ve always loved is that after Hendrix’s performance that summer, my aunts and their classmates petitioned to change out the stock “Star Spangled Banner” recording their school played during morning announcements. All that next year they started their mornings listening to Hendrix’s version over the P.A.)
Until this summer I had never discovered the full extent of the “This I Believe” radio essay series. (Though I think I’d caught a few of the essays on the radio over the years.) The series features famous and everyday people talking about the personal philosophies and core beliefs that have informed their lives. It first aired in the 1950s, and has since been revived as a regular series on NPR, so there is quite an extensive and impressive archive of these programs to listen to.
Click Photo to Listen to “This I Believe”
I finally stumbled on this gem thanks to my friend Jen, who suggested it as a teaching resource. Since then, I’ve been keeping a “This I Believe” CD in my car, and listening to other essays online. In the middle of such a busy summer, the essays have been a godsend: keeping my eye above the horizon of the day-to-day. They’re like five-minute respites.