RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There are a lot of layers to Fred Moten's poetry. There are the words themselves and the story they tell. Then there's the rhythm of the read, the emotions that evokes. And then there's how the words take shape on the page, which reveals yet another dimension to the poems. It's that texture that draws people to his work, including other poets like Douglas Kearney. For our weekend reads we are honoring national poultry month. And to that end we ask Douglas Kearney. For our Weekend Reads, we're honoring National Poetry Month. And to that end, we asked Douglas Kearney to talk about Moten's latest collection, which is called "The Little Edges."
DOUGLAS KEARNEY: Fred Moten is fascinating to me because he manages to bring, not only a sense of the personal and the lyric, but also a kind of intellectual rigor to his work. And there's also this great attention to music within the text itself, but also oftentimes as a subject matter. So for me, he's kind of the perfect storm of a lot of the things that I'm really interested in in poetry.
MARTIN: Let's get a sense of his work. I'm going to ask you to read one of the poems in this book if you don't mind.
MARTIN: I'm going to direct you to the poem called "dance warm." And before we start it, can you just set this poem up for us?
KEARNEY: Absolutely. The poem makes mention of garnette, which as far as I can tell, is a reference to Garnette Cadogan, who is a scholar who does a lot of studying of Jamaican pop music and gospel music. There's a few songs mentioned in the poem. One is "One Love," the famous song by Bob Marley. Another is "(You Caught Me) Smilin'" from Sly and the Family Stone. And then also "Babies Makin' Babies" is also sort of remixed into there.
(Reading) Garnette dance warm in my head like a sweater. He says one love is uncountable. And I feel him. One love is counter to itself. And more than that, more than that it's perfectly itself in every version. We've been ourselves so differently that all this dancing stay ready for us to smile. Having smiled, you got me smilin'. You caught me smilin' again, which no one thought could be our. Warm arrangement is embarrassed with all this beautiful war inside like babies making grammarless babies.
MARTIN: The rhythm of this poem stands out. It's not just the musical references that you talked about. But there is rhythm baked into this.
MARTIN: Can you talk about how his sense of percussion and that musical influence you were talking about - how we see that borne out in this column?
KEARNEY: Well, one of the ways that poets control the musicality of their poems is through the line break. All right. So where those pauses came in my reading are reflecting the moments in the poem when Moten has put a line break in or a stanza break in. They sort of measure out the rhythm of the music. That's a huge part of the sensual experience of reading any poem, observing that poet's music. And that's why I always encourage people to read a poem allowed because just the pure pleasure of the poem sometimes is in that rhythm that you talked about being baked in. So there's a lot of attention to how, not only the sound of the poem comes out, but how the information in the poem is doled out.
MARTIN: I'm going to put you on the spot. Is there another poem in here you'd like to read, something that just speaks to?
KEARNEY: Well, I would love to read a passage from the poem "laura (made me listen to."
MARTIN: OK, let's hear a portion of this.
KEARNEY: (Reading) Daydream and halting made me look at music. I started. She was sleeping. I started painting. Though nfrtt the beautiful minus one has come. Though shrtr in Corona language. Though now and then in air in ease in interested in falling through the little edges.
MARTIN: That was poet Douglas Kearney reading a poem by Fred Moten in his collection "The Little Edges." The poem is called "laura (made me listen to." Thanks so much, Douglas.
KEARNEY: Thank you very much for having me.
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