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The poets we read in 2013

Photo by Flickr user Bob AuBuchon

As the year comes to a close, Art Beat reflects on our best stories from 2013. On Thursday, we revisited the musicians worth a second listen and on Friday we rediscovered our conversations about great movies and tv shows. Today, it’s all about our poets.

We began 2013 by talking to Richard Blanco, the poet who offered verse at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Later on, U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey joined chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown out in the field to find out where poetry “lives” in American communities. Here are some year-end highlights from Art Beat’s substantial poetry series.

Inauguration Poet Richard Blanco Hopes to Offer Words of Unity, Belonging
Congratulations to Poet

Richard Blanco, the poet chosen to read at President Obama’s second swearing-in, talked to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about what it meant to be a part of the festivities. Blanco, a Spanish born Cuban-American, was the first Latino, openly gay and youngest poet to present at a presidential inauguration.

Conversation: Poet Gerald Stern
Gerald Stern

Eighty-seven-year-old Gerald Stern, one of the nation’s most honored poets, has been writing poetry for a long time. In 2013, the Library of Congress honored his work, “Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992,” with the prestigious Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry given to the most distinguished book of verse published in the last two years. Stern dropped by the NewsHour studio for a conversation with Jeffrey Brown.

Poet David Ferry on Writing Verse, Reading Poems, Winning Awards at 88
David Ferry

David Ferry is a poet concerned with making connections to classical literature. He has received both the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and the National Book Award for poetry, and, at age 88, is tackling a translation of Virgil’s “Aeneid. Jeffrey Brown profiled Ferry back in March.

A Writer Reflects on the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, Two Years Later
Gretel Ehrlich

Poet and writer Gretel Ehrlich traveled to Japan to document the physical and emotional aftermath of the devastating tsunami that hit the country in 2011. She shared her poems and reflections on her travels for the two-year anniversary of the earthquake that caused the devastation.

What is postmodern poetry? That’s the question Paul Hoover tried to answer in his work, the Norton Anthology’s second edition of “Postmodern American Poetry.” Hoover, the anthology’s editor, is a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, co-editor of the journal “New American Writing” and the author of nine books of poetry and one novel.

Tony Hoagland

“Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America.” There are many assumptions, questions and provocations in the title of Tony Hoagland’s latest essay in Harper’s Magazine. Hoagland, a professor at the University of Houston, spoke with Jeffrey Brown about the necessity of reconnecting poetry to the American public.


New Anthology Celebrates ‘Ascent’ of African-American Poets

Longtime literary editor Charles Henry Rowell spoke with Jeffrey Brown about his passion for promoting undiscovered and underappreciated African-American poets and artists. His latest effort is the anthology “Angles of Ascent.”

Ancient Afghan Poetry Form Adapts to Tell Story of Modern Life and Conflict

For centuries, Pashtun women have traded stories, feelings and life wisdom in the form of two-line oral poems called landays. Eliza Griswold, a journalist and poet herself, traveled to Afghanistan to learn more about daily life there through the modern exchange of poetry. Jeffrey Brown took a closer look at Griswold’s project.

Liao Yiwu Howls Against the Chinese Government, Offers Memories of Prison/font>

After the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, poet Liao Yiwu responded in anger and sadness with a powerful poem that became popular among activists. But his verse led to his imprisonment. Jeffrey Brown talked to the poet about his work and time in prison, recounted in his new memoir, “For a Song and a Hundred Songs.”

Poetry Project Helps Dementia Patients Live in the Moment

As a part of the series, “Where Poetry Lives,” U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway and Jeffrey Brown visited the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in Brooklyn. The international program works with people with dementia to try to trigger memory by playfully engaging with language.

Young Detroiters Unlock Their Inner Poets, Claim Authorship of Their Experiences

Detroit schools are turning their students into published poets with a little guidance from professional writers and a program called InsideOut. Jeffrey Brown reflected with U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey about visiting the Motor City middle-schoolers and the “sense of power” she witnessed as they found their voices.

“I knew that poets seemed to be miserable,” said writer Billy Collins, who admitted he “faked a miserable character” at the start of his career, yearning to fit in. Collins talked to Jeffrey about his collection, “Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems,” and how he learned to embrace his sense of humor.

Naomi Shihab Nye

In shaping verse, poet Naomi Shihab Nye reflects on her Palestinian heritage, family and the power of humanity. Nye discussed her most recent compilation of work, “Transfer,” and what inspires her to continue crafting thoughtful and expressive poems.


Clive James on Turning His ‘Last Time on Earth’ Into a Writing Wellspring

Known for his columns in The Atlantic and the New York Review of Books, Australian Clive James inhabits a much larger, more diverse role in British culture. The journalist, cultural critic, TV personality and author of several poems and novels spoke with Jeffrey Brown about his health and most recent works in the U.S., a translation of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and “Nefertiti in the Flak Tower.”