Poetry Unbound

Your poetry ritual: An immersive reading of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Unhurried, contemplative and energizing. New episodes on Monday and Friday, about 15 minutes each. Two seasons per year, with occasional special offerings. Anchor your life with poetry.

To listen to more poems, interviews with poets, and search our ever-expanding archive, visit our new home for poetry.

Poetry Unbound Plus is a four-part series with Pádraig in conversation with poets — Mary Karr, David Kinloch, Lorna Goodison, and Diane Glancy — about how their work intersects with the literature of the bible. Explore Poetry Unbound Plus

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Lemn Sissay’s poem “Some Things I Like” celebrates what we might consider discardable — like cold tea, ash trays, and even people. Raising a joyous toast to the forgotten and the forgettable, Sissay recognizes the power we give to what we pay attention to and invites us to look anew at all that has been undervalued.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What is something you like that others may not value in the same way?

Joy Harjo’s poem “Praise the Rain” makes space to appreciate all the nuances of our lives. Echoing Rumi’s poem “The Guest House,” she asks us to be present to this moment — the crazy or the sad, the beginning or the end — to greet it all with the powerful word: “Praise.”

A question to reflect on after you listen: What can you praise today?

An everyday task reveals what is made and unmade in small moments. Ross Gay imagines his fingers opening and closing things, like buttons, the eyes of a dead person, relationships. In doing so, the poem asks us to simply pay attention, today, to what we’re doing with our hands — to understand them as intimate pathways into the stories of our bodies and the stories of our lives. 

A question to reflect on after you listen: What have you done with your hands today? What are you opening? What are you closing?

Allison Funk’s poem “The Prodigal’s Mother Speaks to God” tells the age-old story of The Prodigal Son through a new voice: the unnamed woman of the parable. This woman is truthful, wise, and loving. She knows the dedications and limitations of love. She seeks to see clearly, even though it’s hard to see clearly.

A question to reflect on after you listen: When has love been complicated for you?

Jane Mead’s “Substance Abuse Trial” is set in a courtroom where a daughter hears her father’s name mispronounced at his trial. As she watches this, she wishes that the court could see the fullness of her father and his story — to bear witness to him as a human being, defined by much more than his addiction.

A question to reflect on after you listen: When was a time when you were judged based on a mistake you made, rather than the fullness of who you are?

Ocean Vuong’s poem “Seventh Circle of Earth” is an homage to the love and intimacy shared by Michael Humphrey and Clayton Capshaw, a gay couple who were murdered in their home in Dallas, Texas. In the midst of recognizing the violence and threat LGBTQI communities face, the poem holds space for tenderness — and honors their love.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What examples have you seen of love and power enacted, even in the face of threat?

Tracy K. Smith’s poem “Song” is filled with observations of a loved person; their habits, the things they do when they think nobody is watching. Love is shown and celebrated in observing the small practices of another.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What’s something small and quiet you’ve noticed about a loved one?

Marie Howe’s poem “My Mother’s Body” is wise about age. In the poem, Marie’s mother is young enough to be Marie’s own daughter, and in this imagination there is wonder, understanding, and even forgiveness.

A question to reflect on after you listen: Are there things that you have found easier to understand — or even forgive — as you’ve gotten older?

Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem “Prayer” describes a practice of devotion. It’s a spacious and hospitable poem, filled with references to ritual and the body, and an invitation to share in the warm light of a household lamp.

A question to reflect on after you listen: What rituals do you use to anchor yourself?

Poetry Unbound features an immersive exploration of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. Anchor your week by listening to the everyday poetry of your life, with new episodes on Monday and Friday during the season. Currently working on season 2 for release in Fall 2020.

Season one features poetry from a diverse cast of poets: current and former poets laureate Joy Harjo and Tracy K. Smith; T.S. Eliot Prize winner Ocean Vuong; classic poets like Emily Dickinson and Patrick Kavanagh; spoken-word artists like Raymond Antrobus; and more.

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