MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Each month we've been inviting a poet to spend the day with us and turn the day's news into poem. And our news poet for September is Philip Schultz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection titled "Failure." Philip, it's been great to have you with us.
PHILIP SCHULTZ: It's been great to be here.
BLOCK: I have to say a lot of the news poets I've seen here have had a look of panic and anxiety on their face all day. You have had a big smile on your face all day, like this was a real adventure for you.
SCHULTZ: I'm having the time of my life. I just - watching everyone and how you all do this huge job. And everyone seems so calm and knowledgeable and smart. I love it.
BLOCK: It's all an illusion.
SCHULTZ: Well, I don't know. The meetings I sat in on which - you know I brought what I thought would be at least an idea of a poem that I would write about. And I was 25 minutes into the first meeting, and I realized that was going to go. That what I was taken by are the people. I know that, you know, NPR is news and the news is very important. And I've listened to it plenty. But the news for me today were the people around the table.
BLOCK: What was the germ of the idea that you originally brought in? What did you think it was going to be?
SCHULTZ: Diogenes. I mean I - it's just been coming back to me for some reason, you know, the campaign and everything. One party calling another liars, and who's telling the truth. And what would Diogenes be doing today with his lamp in daylight looking for an honest man. And I would chuckle to myself - where would he go if he attended both conventions, would he find any? And what would he make of it?
I mean here's a guy who, by choice, he lived in a tub in the middle of Athens and he believed that poverty was nobility. And here he was the founder of cynic philosophy, cynicism, and just lived on the outskirts of politics. And I just thought, wouldn't bringing him and introducing him to NPR and everyone, wouldn't that be, you know, like this is - I'm a ventriloquist and he would be my doll. And I thought I was going to do something with him, because I was taken with the idea. But then I saw something much more fascinating.
BLOCK: OK, Philip, let's hear what you came up with today.
SCHULTZ: The NPR morning meetings. Much lively discussion of, say, an orchestra being included into larger programs to stave off more layoffs, plastic boulders chasing people for fun, the anti-Muslim video producer arrested on questionable charges not unlike Al Capone going up on tax evasion, bypassing the devious highways of the First Amendment, not to mention blueprints of their new building, fittings for ergonomic chairs that afternoon. I'm here to write about the news but the news today is this gathering of remarkable people, mostly women, an allegiance of shared endeavor, 30 Sisyphuses being chased by the endless cycle of world-sized boulders, a festival of street smart camaraderie, the world in all its raw magnificence, this room growing older by the minute, not anything I know, the object not ego but a mission to select, qualify and articulate a lasting quality to all those trusting, downcast, yearning ears hungry to be astonished by the truth.
BLOCK: On a good day that would be a great mission.
BLOCK: Philip Schultz, it's been great to have you with us. Thanks so much.
SCHULTZ: Thank you. It's been a great pleasure to be here.
BLOCK: This month's news poet, Philip Schultz, with his poem, "NPR Morning Meetings." His collection "Failure" won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and his most recent book is a memoir, "My Dyslexia."
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
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