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Poetry Unbound

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Your new ritual: Immerse yourself in 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.
18 Episodes
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In Leanne O’Sullivan’s poem “Leaving Early,” the poet writes to her ill husband, entrusting him into the care of a nurse named Fionnuala. As the novel coronavirus sweeps the globe, many of us can’t physically be there for loved ones who are sick. Instead, it is the health care workers — and all involved in the health care system — who are tirelessly present, caring for others in spite of exhaustion and the risk it brings to their own wellbeing.We offer this episode of Poetry Unbound in profound gratitude toward all who are working in health care right now.About the Poet:“Leaving Early” comes from Leanne O’Sullivan’s book A Quarter of an Hour. Thank you to the publisher, Bloodaxe Books, who gave us permission to use Leanne’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
Poetry Unbound will be back with new episodes this fall. We’re so grateful to those who welcomed the podcast into their lives, and we’d love to hear more about your listening experience. What did you love? What can we improve? And what poetry, poets, or topics would you like to hear host Pádraig Ó Tuama talk about? Take the short survey at onbeing.org/pusurvey.
Emily Dickinson’s poem “1383” honors the friendships that endure across time, circumstance, and even misunderstanding. Akin to fire, the connections in these friendships may be strong enough to burn or hurt us, but Dickinson acknowledges that their light continues to draw us in regardless.After listening, we invite you to reflect on this question: Think about a friendship that has remained steady for you across the years, even as both of you have changed. Why do you think your relationship has endured?About the Poet:Emily Dickinson was a 19th-century American poet from Amherst, Mass. She wrote around 1,800 poems in her life, and her first collection of poetry was published posthumously in 1890.“1383” comes from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Thank you to Harvard University Press, who published the book and gave us permission to use Emily’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
Raymond Antrobus’s poem “Miami Airport” bears witness to the disempowerment that comes when you’re not believed. The voice of the poet is absent, and all we hear is an interrogator seeking to disrupt and displace. This space of suspicion creates anxiety, transporting us to the places and times when someone has questioned the truth of our story.A question to reflect on after you listen: When have you felt disempowered by questions about yourself? Did you find your voice again? How?About the Poet:Raymond Antrobus is a freelance poet and teacher. He is one of the world’s first recipients of a MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London and is the recipient of the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society (judged by Ocean Vuong). He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works iii, and Jerwood Compton Poetry.“Miami Airport” comes from Raymond Antrobus’s book The Perseverance. Thank you to Penned in the Margins, who published the book and gave us permission to use Raymond’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “The One” is about seeing beauty in the ordinary places of home. One of Ireland’s most famous poets, Kavanagh grew up in rural County Monaghan and moved to Dublin as a young man. This poem revisits the boglands of his home, which he once hated but came to love. A question to reflect on after you listen: Think about where you’re from. How has your understanding of it changed over time?About the Poet:Patrick Kavanagh was a prominent Irish poet and writer who died in 1967. His books include the memoir, The Green Fool, the novel Tarry Flynn, and the poetry collections The Great Hunger, The Complete Poems of Patrick Kavanagh, and Collected Poems.“The One” comes from Patrick Kavanagh’s book Collected Poems, edited by Antoinette Quinn. Thank you to the trustees of the late Katherine B. Kavanagh Estate and to the Jonathan Williams Literary Agency, for letting us use Patrick’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
Ali Cobby Eckermann’s poem “Kulila” insists on remembering as a moral act. Through the poem, the Aboriginal poet mourns the loss of Indigenous cultures in Australia and how they have been damaged and changed by colonization. Cobby Eckermann calls her readers to a place of listening and lament as a way to keep alive the memory of who we are and who we could’ve been.A question to reflect on after you listen: What in your culture or community needs to be lamented, honored, and told?About the Poet:Ali Cobby Eckermann is a Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal poet and the author of seven books, including Ruby Moonlight, the poetry collections Inside My Mother, and a memoir, Too Afraid to Cry. She is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize in Poetry from Yale University.“Kulila” comes from Ali Cobby Eckermann’s book Inside My Mother. Thank you to Giramondo Publishing, who published the book and gave us permission to use Ali’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the Poet:Kei Miller is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Exeter. His books of poetry include The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, winner of the Forward poetry prize, There Is an Anger That Moves, and A Light Song of Light. His novels include The Last Warner Woman and most recently, Augustown.“Book of Genesis” comes from Kei Miller’s book There Is an Anger That Moves. Thank you to Carcanet Press Limited, who gave us permission to use Kei’s poem. You can read it on our website, at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the Poet:Lemn Sissay is a poet, playwright, and broadcaster. He contributes regularly to BBC radio and is a BAFTA-nominated, international prize-winning writer. His awards include a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to literature by the Queen of England, the PEN Pinter Prize, and a Points of Light Award from the prime minister of England. His books of poetry include Listener, Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist, and Rebel without Applause. His memoir is My Name is Why.“Some Things I Like” comes from Lemn Sissay’s book Listener. Thank you to Canongate, who published the book and gave us permission to use Lemn’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the Poet:Joy Harjo is the 23rd poet laureate of the United States and a writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She has written nine books of poetry, several plays and children's books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave. She is also a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.“Praise the Rain” comes from Joy Harjo’s book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Thank you to W.W. Norton, who published the book, and to Joy for letting us use her poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
Ross Gay’s poem “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” uses an everyday task to examine what is made and unmade in small moments. He 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?About the Poet:Ross Gay is a writer and a professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington. His books include the poetry collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a book of essays, The Book of Delights. He is a board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard and a co-founder of The Tenderness Project.“Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” comes from Ross Gay’s book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Thank you to the University of Pittsburgh Press, who published the book, and gave us permission to use Ross’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the Poet:Allison Funk is a distinguished professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her books include The Knot Garden, The Tumbling Box, and Wonder Rooms. Her forthcoming book is The Visible Woman. Her honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the George Kent Prize from Poetry Magazine, and the Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America."The Prodigal's Mother Speaks to God" comes from Alison Funk’s book The Knot Garden. Thank you to Sheep Meadow Press, who published the book, and gave us permission to use Alison’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the Poet:Jane Mead authored five poetry collections during her life including The Lord and the General Din of the World, The Usable Field, and World of Made and Unmade. Winner of a Griffin Poetry Prize and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, Jane taught at various institutions throughout her life including Colby College, Washington University, and New England College. She was a long-time poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. She died on September 8, 2019."Substance Abuse Trial" comes from Jane Mead’s book The Lord and the General Din of the World. Thank you to Alice James Books, who published the book, and to The Permissions Company, who let us use Jane’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the poet:Ocean Vuong is an assistant professor in the MFA program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts — Amherst. His New York Times bestselling novel is On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, and his poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize and Whiting Award. In 2019, Vuong was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Grant.“Seventh Circle of Earth” comes from Ocean Vuong’s book Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Thank you to Copper Canyon Press, who published the book, and to Ocean for letting us use his poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan. 
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?About the poet:Tracy K. Smith is a professor of creative writing at Princeton University and the former poet laureate of the United States. Her poetry collections include Life on Mars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Duende, and The Body’s Prize. Her memoir is Ordinary Light, and she also hosts the podcast, The Slowdown.“Song” comes from Tracy K. Smith’s book Life on Mars. Thank you to Graywolf Press, who published the book and to The Permissions Company, who let us use Tracy’s poem. Read it on our website at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the poet:Marie Howe is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She’s published four collections of poetry: What the Living Do, The Good Thief, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, and Magdalene. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Dartmouth College, and New York University.“My Mother’s Body” comes from Marie Howe’s book The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. Thank you to W.W. Norton, who published the book and gave us permission to use Marie’s poem. Read it on onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the poet:Faisal Mohyuddin is a writer, artist, and educator. He is the author of The Displaced Children of Displaced Children, winner of the 2017 Sexton Prize in Poetry and a 2018 Summer Recommendation of the Poetry Book Society. He teaches English at Highland Park High School in Illinois, serves as an educator adviser to the global not-for-profit Narrative 4, and lives with his family in Chicago.“Prayer” comes from Faisal Mohyuddin’s book The Displaced Children of Displaced Children. Thank you to Eyewear Publishing, who published the book and gave us permission to use Faisal’s poem. Read it on onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the poet:Aimee Nezhukumatathil is a professor of English and creative writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi. She also serves as the poetry editor for Orion magazine. Her books include Lucky Fish, At the Drive-In Volcano, Miracle Fruit, and Oceanic. Her upcoming book of illustrated essays is World of Wonders. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.“On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance” comes from Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s book Oceanic. Thank you to Copper Canyon Press, who published the book, and to Aimee for letting us use her poem. Read it on onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
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?About the poet: Brad Aaron Modlin is the Reynolds Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He holds a PhD from Ohio University and an MFA from Bowling Green State.“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” comes from Brad Aaron Modlin’s book Everyone at This Party Has Two Names. Thank you to Southeast Missouri State University Press, which published the book and gave us permission to use Brad’s poem. Find the full poem at onbeing.org.Find the transcript for this episode at onbeing.org.The original music in this episode was composed by Gautam Srikishan.
Poetry Unbound features an immersive exploration of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. Proudly produced by On Being Studios. Anchor your week with new episodes on Monday and Friday, beginning January 27. This season 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.About the host: Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, conflict mediator — and the host of our new podcast, Poetry Unbound. His books include a prayer book, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, a book of poetry, Sorry for Your Troubles, and a memoir, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.
Comments (8)

Jennifer Quinton

this has brought my soul such joy..true joy of words and voice and that I am not alone. Bravo and thank you from heartstrings that are no longer tight but worn from a world that pulls them loose.

Mar 22nd
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ID17356436

This is beautiful ❤️

Mar 13th
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LSS

I really love this podcast and I appreciate that some I can even use in the English classes I teach!

Mar 6th
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Patricia

💚🇮🇪 More please.

Feb 26th
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Jessica H

This is a beautiful and meditative series - I love the way that Padraig takes the listener through a single poem carefully and thoughtfully yet without excessive detail.

Feb 24th
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Goddess Si'mone

Feb 23rd
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Keith Betton

I think she was proclaiming her love for her father, no just for the court but to her father as well. As a a sort of plead for him for him life.

Feb 17th
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Martha Parrish Bush

I am so very excited and pleased that this podcast Poetry Unbound with Padraig O Tauma will be starting soon. His poems and the ways I have heard him unfold a poem are wonderful. It will be great to have weekly in my podcast inbox! Whoot! 😊

Jan 12th
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