A letter from Pádraig and a rich conversation with other readers every Sunday.
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March 6, 2020
Book of Genesis
Kei Miller’s poem “Book of Genesis” asks us to imagine a God who makes things spring into life specifically for us. Just as the poet of Genesis proclaims, “Let there be,” Miller wonders what freedom and flourishing we’d find in imagining a “Let” pronounced not for the person others say we should be, but for the person we are.
A question to reflect on after you listen: How can you begin to let yourself flourish today, just as you are?
March 2, 2020
Some Things I Like
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?
February 28, 2020
Praise the Rain
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?
February 24, 2020
Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt
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?
February 21, 2020
The Prodigal’s Mother Speaks to God
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?
February 17, 2020
Substance Abuse Trial
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?
February 14, 2020
Seventh Circle of Earth
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?
February 10, 2020
Tracy K. Smith
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?
February 7, 2020
My Mother’s Body
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?
February 3, 2020
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?
January 31, 2020
On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance” offers a way to ground yourself during vulnerable moments. The poet gathers strength from being loved, which helps her in times of displacement.
A question to reflect on after you listen: What stories do you hold on to when you’re feeling displaced?
Brad Aaron Modlin’s poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” speaks of learning to grow up by yourself. The poet wonders what life lessons would look like if they could be taught by a teacher; a good teacher, a teacher like Mrs. Nelson.
A question to reflect on after you listen: What life lessons did you have to learn by yourself?
January 7, 2020
Welcome to Poetry Unbound
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.
Join our constellation of listening and living.
The Pause is our seasonal Saturday morning ritual of a newsletter. Replenishment and invigoration in your inbox. Wisdom to take into your week. And when you sign up, you’ll receive ongoing, advance invitations and news on all things On Being.
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