In honor of National Poetry Month this April, Sounds Good will present special programming Mondays beginning April 5th at 11 am. These programs from PRX will honor significant poetry contributions of the last 200 years from Plath to Whitman, Dickenson to Kerouac.
See WKMS’ National Poetry Month programming below:
Monday, April 5th at 11 am
The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: A Big Read Documentary
Emily Dickinson is not only one of the supreme lyric poets of American literature. She has also come to symbolize the purest kind of artistic vocation. Not merely unrecognized but virtually unpublished in her own lifetime, she developed her genius in the utmost privacy, invisible to all except a small circle of family and friends. Driven only by her own imagination, she created a body of work unsurpassed in its expressive originality, penetrating insight, and dark beauty.
11:30 am: Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen
Black cake, gingerbread, slant rhyme, secret loves, family scandals, poems composed on the back of a coconut cake recipe–we journey into the steamy, myth-laden, hidden world of poet Emily Dickinson through her kitchen. In her lifetime, Emily was probably better known as a baker than a poet.
Filled with mystery, intrigue, and readings by Patti Smith, Thornton Wilder, Jean Harris, and an array of passionate poets and experts.
12 noon: Presidential Poetry
Amanda Gorman did more than steal the show, more than capture Joe Biden’s inaugural moment. She may have opened a new road in poetry as well as politics with her ode to “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” For showing what public poetry could do, there was never a day quite like it, and nobody quite like the “skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” as she said, “who could dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.” The lines are still resounding; the cadences of slam poetry, of Hamilton the show, that mind and voice trained on social media for a mass audience.
We’re into the First Hundred Days of Joe Biden’s Executive Orders, the first hundred days of Amanda Gorman’s vision of a recovering country. Gorman’s gift was to set uplifting language in the service of moral clarity–an example and a challenge that the tribe of poets and writers took as overdue.
Monday, April 12th at 11 am
Walt Whitman: Song of Myself
Over one hundred and fifty years have passed since Walt Whitman first published Leaves of Grass, a collection of twelve poems that irrevocably altered the development of poetry and literature. His magnum opus shattered existing notions of poetry, breaking all existing conventions in terms of subject matter, language, and style. Leaves of Grass opened the door not only for poets, but writers, artists, musicians, and thinkers to break down barriers in their own work; despite never reaching a mass audience during the artist’s lifetime, its tremendous impact is being felt a century and a half later.
Today, we are still trying to understand who Whitman was, what he was saying, and what he was styling himself to be. Hosted by Carl Hancock Rux, Walt Whitman: Song of Myself explores how a 36-year-old freelance journalist and part-time house-builder living in Brooklyn created his outrageous, groundbreaking work. We join Whitman on a walk through the urban streets, imagining the sights, sounds and music, from Stephen Foster to Italian opera, that profoundly affected him and indelibly shaped his poetry.
In this hour-long special, Rux speaks with writers, poets, musicians, and scholars who tell the story of this extraordinary, self-styled celebrity. Guests include writers Michael Cunningham and Phillip Lopate; poets Martin Espada, and Ishle Yi Park, Queens poet laureate; composers John Adams and Ned Rorem; choreographer Bill T. Jones; Whitman scholars Karen Karbiener and David Reynolds; and many, many others.
12 noon: Poetry That Heals
This is a good time to reflect on the role of poetry in the face of tragedy. A poet laureate shares how poetry can heal in the wake of loss. In college, Laura Bylenok was fascinated with genetic engineering. Now, she manipulates language, not DNA. Her poetry turns familiar forms into poetic laboratory experiments.
To some, poetry and medicine seem like opposites. But pediatrician and poet Irène Mathieu says both science and poetry use language to understand deeper truths about the human condition. Mathieu’s latest collection, Grande Marronage, examines the lives of Creole women of color in New Orleans.
Monday, April 26th at 11 am
Our opening song is Stardust, a song written by Indiana native Hoagy Carmichael and here performed by Dave Brubeck off the live album Jazz at Oberlin recorded in May of 1953. In June of that same year, Sylvia Plath would find herself in New York as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine. In August, she would attempt to end her life by swallowing sleeping pills, hiding herself away in the crawlspace under her house in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She had already been the recipient of electroshock therapy.
Sylvia Plath matters in many ways: first as a poet, but also as a lens through which to see and critique her times and ours. Her life in the mid-20th century is chronicled as fully in her own words as it is by the biographers to come, by those who would solve the problem of her death, and by those who would see her death as the value proposition of her work.
Sylvia Plath worked with intense dedication to be heard in a world that often has no ears to hear women. But, Plath was a woman who wrote many times of her disdain for women, for being a woman, and in her journals, she often wrote of the women who might be her competition. Of men, they were her peers, and she would count their opinions and assistance as most relevant to her. And, we must see this, at least one level, as pragmatic. Men did, and do, hold the cards and pull the strings.
12 noon: HV Special: Wordshakers
A collection of readings: Andrei Codrescu (NPR and The Exquisite Corpse) Lord Alfred Tennyson bangs the podium in The Charge of the Light Brigade. Thomas Edison waxes Walt Whitman’s “America.” Scott Carrier presents the categorical conundrum of “Alex Caldiero-Poet?” Ed Sanders posts “A Question of Fame.”
DJ Spooky remixes Vladimir Mayakovsky. Pre-teen poet Sawyer Shetfs lists “The Sound I Hear at Night.” In New Orleans, a hot-dog vendor, a barkeep, and a stripper get churned in the “Poetry Combine.” Jan Kerouac responds to her father’s poetry and parenting in “Jan on Jack.” Allen Ginsberg runs a “Personals Ad.” Marianne Faithful performs Gregory Corso’s “Getting to the Poem.”
Another poem is found in “Double Dutch Rhymes.” Alex Caldiero concludes, “Poetry is Wanted Here.” And a Phoebe Snow fan helps sing “Poetry Man.”
Listen to WKMS special programming on-air, online at WKMS.org, or ask your smart speaker to “play WKMS.”