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A collection of field recordings by a wide range of award-winning contemporary poets. Each poet reads a singular American poem of his or her choosing, and also speaks to how the poem connects, deepens, or re-imagines our sense of the nation. The feature includes a print version of the poem to complement the recording, as well as a piece by the participating poet.

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New Poetry of America Readings

Mary Jo Bang reads and discusses Allen Ginsberg's “Howl, Part III” - new

Fanny HoweJohn Wieners

“It’s rare that a single event results in permanent social change, and more rare, yet, when that single event is the publication of a poem. ‘Howl’ is one of those few poems.”

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Ron Padgett reads and discusses Frank O’Hara’s “A Step Away from Them” - new

Naiomi Shihab Nye Lisa Suhair Majaj

“. . . this poem, to me, sounds almost like a letter to a friend: it has a personal tone, it’s conversational, it’s very open and unguarded.”

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C.D. Wright reads Besmilr Brigham’s “Heaved from the Earth” - new

C. D. Wright Besmilr Brigham

“She drives into her poem at an unexpected angle—exits without explanation. She gives the reader ample space to expand and elaborate on her intentions. This is stubborn, backcountry matter—predators and prey.”

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James Tate reads Charles Wright's “The Other Side of the River” - new

James TateCharles Wright

“ … he seems like he’s locked into some very narrow thing, namely the self, but in truth, it gets very large and wide thanks to his great use of language, and his love of language, and the rhythm …”

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Carl Phillips reads and discusses Walt Whitman’s “I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing” - new

Carl Phillips Walt Whitman

“And what I am particularly struck by is how, so early in our country’s history, he is making, or trying to make, a space for difference by showing how much we have in common, mainly, the need for love, the need for company and companionship, whoever we are.”

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Joy Harjo reads and discusses Jennifer Elise Foerster’s “American Coma” - new

Joy Harjo Jennifer Ellise Foerster

“… in this poem, she’s putting the story of a broken people back together; she’s making a road home, maybe even cleaning the road home for the people, for the person in this story who’s been broken, and for her own brokenness and the brokenness of a whole country.”

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Rosanna Warren reads and discusses Herman Melville’s “The March into Virginia” - new

Rosanna Warren Herman Melville

“It’s a poem much concerned with identity: North or South? Youth or age? What is it to be an American? What is it to be living? What is it to be dead? What is it to be ignorant? What is it to be (as the poem says) ‘enlightened?’”

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Forrest Gander reads from and discusses Will Alexander’s “The Sri Lankan Loxodrome” - new

Forrest Gander Will Alexander

“For him, migration is a mode and means of identification with others, and so, of self-discovery.”

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D. A. Powell reads Frances E.W. Harper’s “Bury Me in a Free Land” - new

D. A. Powell Frances E.W. Harper

“A tireless suffragist and abolitionist, Harper saw the transformation of this country from a land of inequality to a place of promise and hope.”

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View Full List of Poetry of America readings and commentary