ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The poet Padraig O Tuama wants to engage you with the power of poems. The podcast he hosts called "Poetry Unbound" starts its second season this week.
PADRAIG O TUAMA: Poetry is a very old art and has been around a lot longer than people have been able to read or write. And to hear poetry can often carry a beautiful, emotional resonance with it. You're hearing a sound that sounds like itself and an echo and a rhyme of something really important and really meaningful.
We're looking in this program, "Poetry Unbound," for poems that speak to the human condition and that enliven that. The most moving thing has been the amount of people who have gotten in touch, saying that they loved poetry in school, but they had never felt like they could pass the exams in it. And so therefore, they felt stupid in the face of poems and that this podcast and lots of the other poetry podcasts that are out there, too, have helped them to realize, no, poetry respects me, and poetry wants to be in conversation with me. People have found their way back into poetry, knowing that it can be a companion to them rather than something that criticizes them.
So we have 24 poems coming up on Season 2, from poems of real celebration to real lamentation, poems of protest, poems of delight, love poems, wistful poems, poems about learning, poems about death. We have a poem from Lucille Clifton, the untitled one that's often known as "Won't You Celebrate With Me."
(Reading) Won't you celebrate with me what I have shaped into a kind of life? I had no model. Born in Babylon both nonwhite and woman, what did I see to be except myself? I made it up here on this bridge between starshine and clay, my one hand holding tight my other hand. Come celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed.
Putting words together like that I think gives you goose bumps. It also alerts you to the power of what language can do when language is simple and as sharp as a scalpel. And I think as we look at the pandemic, I've been thinking a lot about isolation. And the word isolation comes from the same old root meaning island. And if you've ever been on an island, you always find yourself looking to a horizon to see another island or to see the sunset or to see, is there a boat coming? And I think poetry can help lift our eyes to other islands. We can hear stories coming from other people. We can hear ways within which the heart can be uplifted or truths can be named that are otherwise not being named.
SHAPIRO: That's Irish poet Padraig O Tuama, host of the podcast "Poetry Unbound," which is back this week with its second season.
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