On this last day of March, I have been thinking about time, particularly about endings and how they set the stage for beginnings. In that consideration, I read poems by T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, John Donne, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Strand, Howard Nemerov, and Mona van Duyn. I end the program with one of my own poems.
Today I read poems about the wind, some of them about March winds, to celebrate wind as a natural expression and as a symbolic representation of the actions of the world. In this view, nothing stays calm, but nothing, also, stays forever in motion. I read poems by Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Katharine Tynan, Sara Teasdale, Claude McKay, and Ted Hughes. I end the program with one of my own poems.
In celebration of the Ides of March (which marks the full moon) and in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I read poems about the moon and about Ireland by Irish poets: William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Amergin as translated by Lady Gregory, and Derek Mahon. I end the program with poems from my book St. Brigid's Well, written on and about the West Coast of Ireland.
December is a month of anticipation and waiting. It is not only the season of Advent that defines this month, with its promise of new light and its groundwork of redemption as the month concludes, but it is also a month that clearly frames the idea and fact of waiting as an essential parameter of human life. I read poems about waiting in that light by William Butler Yeats, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Galway Kinnell, Pablo Neruda, Alice Walker, and Walt Whitman. I end the program with one of my own poems.
In my last program, as part of my focus on memory and on remembering November, I read poems about the results of struggle and adversity during this month. My youngest brother struggled and died in November, two years ago. I found a manuscript of poems at the bottom of one of the drawers in his desk, hidden under piles of other papers and folders. The book -- titled The Winds of Spirit Mountain --was published in 2019. I read several of the poems from his book today and end the program with one of my poems about my brothers.
As the November skies dull to a heavier gray, I have been thinking about the hard days we all have had and that we remember perhaps especially as the year draws to its close. So today I read poems about struggle and adversity by Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Derek Walcott, Miller Williams, Lucille Clifton, Charles Bernstein, and Javier Zamora. I end the program with one of my own poems.
Today’s program considers poetry as a counterpoint and antidote to the misuse of power, and how poetry is a source of truth in the face of the corruption and lies that political power – and especially today – succumbs to. I begin with a consideration of the Elizabethan idea that poetry rouses us to virtue and then include an excerpt from President John F. Kennedy’s remarkable speech – delivered on the occasion of the dedication of the Robert Frost Library – on the role of poetry and of the artist in a free society. I read poems by Robert Frost, Michelle Hartman, Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar, Michael Casey, and Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert to illustrate that poetic exhortation to truth.
Today’s program presents poems by three of the poets whose works were essential influences in the earliest stages of my writing. They include the early William Butler Yeats, Robert Lowell in Lord Weary’s Castle, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in A Coney Island of the Mind. I end my program with two of my own poems, one from my “Ferlinghetti stage” (written in 1968) and one from my “Lowell stage” (written in 1969).
Today’s program is about translating poetry. That is, rendering poems from one language into another language. I talk about how we create a new poem in that process, a new work of art that provides us with a new experience in the new language. I begin today’s program by talking about how I made my first translation when I was in college and I talk about that process line by line. I end the program with readings of my translations of poems by the wonderful Lithuanian poet Marcelijus Martinaitis.