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Poetry Unbound

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Your poetry ritual: An immersive reading of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Unhurried, contemplative and energizing. New episodes on Monday and Friday, about 15 minutes each. Two seasons per year, with occasional special offerings. Anchor your life with poetry.
62 Episodes
This poem stretches the word ‘expect’ into dozens of formulations. Proceeding alphabetically  through the index of the book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” Katie Manning creates an exhausting list of all the expectations created during pregnancy,about rejecting some pressures and embracing others; surviving some, being knocked over by others. The humor and pace of this poem places insight alongside insidiousness.Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, Kahini Quarterly, and many others. Find her online at to Poetry Unbound Plus here.Find the transcript for this show at
The opening poem to Ilya Kaminsky’s masterpiece, “Deaf Republic,” is written in the voice of someone who is confessing their complacency during a time of trial. There’s a war going on, but it doesn’t affect the person speaking, so they don’t get involved. Instead they stayed outside and caught the sun. They lived happily during the war, and are now saying (forgive us). This poem leaves us wondering what it would mean to make such a confession, to ask for forgiveness, and whether it’d do any good.Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived in the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. He is the author of Deaf Republic and Dancing In Odessa, and has co-edited and co-translated many other books, including Ecco Anthology of International Poetry and Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva. He holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry at Georgia Institute of Technology and lives in Atlanta.Find the transcript for this show at
After Margaret Noodin recited her poem, “Gimaazinibii'amoon” / “A Message to You,” for this week’s Poetry Unbound episode, she spoke with host, Pádraig Ó Tuama, about the story behind that poem as well as the Anishinaabemowin language, translation, and the importance of language preservation.Margaret Noodin is a poet and the author of Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature, Weweni: Poems in Anishinaabemowin and English, and What the Chickadee Knows. She teaches American Indian Literature, Celtic Literature, Indigenous Language Revitalization and Anishinaabemowin language at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Margaret is the editor of and the Papers of the Algonquian Conference.Find the transcript for this show at
A special bilingual poem in Anishinaabemowin and English by Margaret Noodin, a linguist who writes primarily in Anishinaabemowin. This poem of eight lines is filled with location —  the sweet sea, the curved shoreline — and gathers melancholy into its song. And it is a song — sung in both languages for us by Margaret Noodin herself.Margaret Noodin is a poet and the author of Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature, Weweni: Poems in Anishinaabemowin and English, and What the Chickadee Knows. She teaches American Indian Literature, Celtic Literature, Indigenous Language Revitalization and Anishinaabemowin language at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Margaret is the editor of and the Papers of the Algonquian Conference.Find the transcript for this show at
Bereavement brings all kinds of pressures. This poem by Martín Espada starts off with a grief-to-do-list: a phone call, a flight, a blizzard, cremations, shipments of ashes, memorial services. After all of this — in a first stanza that builds in intensity — he needs to be reconnected with something tangible. He goes to feed birds at the park, and among the birds is a goose, like a god of the geese, who shrieks with all the emotion stored in him. This goose is like a priest of grief for Martín Espada, voicing the sounds of all that he’s feeling.Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His new book of poems from Norton is called Floaters. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed, The Trouble Ball, and Alabanza. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.Find the transcript for this show at
In many ways this poem can be analyzed by how it ends: by examining the contents of organic shops. Roshni Goyate looks at one such item — coconut oil for hair —  and considers its long line of history in her British-Indian family. As a child, she was shamed by classmates for using coconut oil in her hair, but now it’s double the price in shops. In a cruel irony, her race and culture were both hypervisible to those who taunted her and rendered invisible by those same people who invalidated her presence and citizenship.Roshni Goyate is one quarter of the 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE poetry collective. Together they have published a book of poetry, a zine of essays, and most recently, a collection of solo works, published by Rough Trade Books, in which Roshni's pamphlet, Shadow Work, appears. Roshni is a Londoner, proud daughter of Indian immigrants and co-founder of The Other Box, an inclusion and equity company.Find the transcript for this show at
When looking at Andy Warhol’s painting of Geronimo —  a leader and medicine man of the Bedonkohe band of the Apache tribe —  b: william bearheart wonders who the Geronimo of the painting is looking back at, and who is looking at it. In many ways, this poem reflects on how this piece of art depicting an Indigenous American was painted by a White person for White people. However, the poet finds connections — of pain, occupation and experience — between himself and Geronimo; and the poem challenges the centrality of the White european gaze.b: william bearhart is a direct descendent of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. A graduate of the Lo-Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, bearhart’s work appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through (W. W. Norton, 2020). His work can be found in Bloom, North American Review, Plume, Prairie Schooner, and Tupelo Quarterly, among others. bearhart worked as a poker dealer in a small Wisconsin casino. He died in August, 2020.Find the transcript for this show at
A poet considers his father, and, particularly, his father’s boots. These boots could be a hammer, a prop, a weapon. But Esteban Rodríguez also remembers how his father — a sleepwalker — would walk outside at night in his underwear, wielding his boots, slapping them against each other in a kind of protective ritual. What spirits was his father protecting them from? What was he asserting about land and place, by standing guard, even in his dreams?Esteban Rodríguez is the author of five poetry collections, most recently, The Valley. His debut essay collection Before the Earth Devours Us will be published by Split/Lip Press in late 2021. He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, an Assistant Poetry Editor for AGNI, and a regular reviews contributor for Heavy Feather Review. He lives in Austin, Texas.Find the transcript for this show at
This ‘Essay on Reentry’ charts life after prison: and the way that others keep your sentence alive even when you’re wishing to just get on with your own life. It’s about secrets and choice and disclosure. And in the midst of all this, there is also love between a son and his dad, a son like a “straggling angel, / lost from his pack finding a way to fulfill his / duty.”Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of a memoir and three books of poetry. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was awarded the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His books of poetry are Shahid Reads His Own Palm, Bastards of the Reagan Era, and Felon. He is a graduate of Prince George’s Community College, the University of Maryland, the MFA Program at Warren Wilson College, and is currently a PhD student at Yale Law School.Find the transcript for this show at
A poem about blossoms that is not only about blossoms. Li-Young Lee remembers a glorious day when he and a companion bought peaches; peaches that had come from blossoms. And in the taste of peaches, the brown paper bag they came in, sold by a boy at a bend in a road, the poem tells us — again and again — that sweetness, yearning and generosity is possible, on all kinds of days.Li-Young Lee is the author of five critically acclaimed books of poetry, most recently The Undressing. His earlier books of poetry include Book of My Nights; Behind My Eyes; Rose, winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University; and The City in Which I Love You, the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection.Find the transcript for this show at
This poem takes place on battlegrounds. The poet — Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo — is at Gettysburg National Military Park, where she wanders around the cemetery searching for the graves of Mexican soldiers. Instead she finds KKK books on display in the park’s visitors gift shop. So much of this poem is about unearthing, and making offerings of devotion and life: the poet makes offerings to her ancestors, but she also makes offerings of water bottles to migrants at border crossings.Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo  is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and the author of Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge. She considers herself an experiential witness poet for today’s America, and in 2017, she was the Gettysburg National Military Park’s “Poet in the Park,” in partnership with National Parks Arts Foundation and the Poetry Foundation. Her poem, "Battlegrounds," featured in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, was written during this time. A former Steinbeck Fellow, Xochitl Julisa Bermejo is the director of Women Who Submit, a literary organization fighting for gender parity in publishing.Find the transcript for this show at
In this love poem, Matthew Olzmann writes about his wife — the poet Vievee Francis whose poem for Matthew was featured in the previous episode — and the reasons why their marriage might work: her courage, her tenacity, her quirks, her multiplicities. He recounts instances of her generosity and lands on a story of how, when she was down to her “last damn dime,” she  still bought a bottle of Mountain Dew for him, because she knew he loved it. This is a cinematic and musical poem, making exquisite use of a particular object: a bottle of soda, holding fizz in it, and symbolizing more love than it could contain.Matthew Olzmann  was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received a BA from the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of Contradictions in the Design and Mezzanines, winner of the 2011 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Olzmann has received fellowships from the Kresge Arts Foundation and Kundiman, among others. He teaches at Warren Wilson College and lives in North Carolina with his wife, the poet Vievee Francis.Find the transcript for this show at
Building up in lists of delicious words — uvular, hibiscus, loquacious, shuttlecock, dollop, chipotles and chocolate — this poem uses sensual language to make a simple point. Vievee Francis moves past these words and all their suggestions by telling us that her favorite word is the name of her husband — the poet Matthew Olzmann — and how she loves it when he says her name. Love, like this poem, can rejoice in many things, and take its own time to unfold its own delight.Vievee Francis is the author of Blue-Tail Fly, Horse in the Dark, and Forest Primeval, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. She is an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an associate editor for Callaloo.Find the transcript for this show at
This poem offers critique into a moment of Irish history when Ireland, through independence, was rising to the light. But Irish women were facing lives as constricted in independence as under empire. Decades later, Eavan Boland reads a newspaper of her grandmother’s near-eviction and is consumed both by rage and critique of how history concerns itself with the politics of men, not women. This poem is a corrective, turning the gaze on historians, as well as history.Eavan Boland was an Irish poet, author, and professor at Stanford University, where she taught from 1996. Her work deals with the Irish national identity, and the role of women in Irish history. Her books of poetry include The Historians: Poems, Against Love Poetry: Poems, New Collected Poems, and many more.Find the transcript for this show at
This poem starts off by describing how split the poet — Jónína Kirton — feels between two identities: having both Métis and Icelandic heritage. The poem imagines a bridge between these two places and cultures, and arrives, in the second stanza, at the image of a “living root bridge.”It is in this image that the poem anchors itself: a bridge that is part of the earth, a bridge that lives, that is not torn, but alive and growing. This metaphor speaks to what is possible in a life, and helps Jónína Kirton thrive in the tension she thought would tear her.Jónína Kirton is a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet and a graduate of the Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio where she is currently their BIPOC Auntie supporting and mentoring BIPOC students. In 2016, she received the City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her books of poetry include page as bone ~ ink as blood and An Honest Woman, which was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.Find the transcript for this show at
In Lorna Goodison’s imagined scene, Spain’s Queen Isabella receives the ‘report’ of the discovery of Xamaica from Christopher Columbus, an Italian man who was financed by the Spanish court to ransack foreign lands. Lorna Goodison is the former Poet Laureate of Jamaica, and in this tight, terse poem, she’s the explorer: exploring practices of colonization, finance, power and administration. With pomp and ceremony she describes a scene that was as vacuous as it was dangerous.Lorna Goodison is one of the Caribbean's most distinguished contemporary poets. Her work appears in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces and her many honors include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, Americas Region. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Supplying Salt and Light, Controlling the Silver, Traveling Mercies, and many more. Her work, translated into many languages, is widely published and anthologized.Find the transcript for this show at
Music works a kind of poetry in us. This poem is like a mix-tape of Hanif Abdurraqib’s memories, complete with a soundtrack that’s as roaring as it is tender. An adult now, he remembers moments of grief and growth in the adults of his childhood, and how Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” opens up more than just those memories. In a poem that you can almost dance along with, Hanif  wraps other people’s griefs — and his own — into language that uplifts.Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His books include A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, and A Fortune for your Disaster.Find the transcript for this show at
Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, April 26. Featured poets in this season include Hanif Abdurraqib, Vievee Francis, Ilya Kaminsky, Li-Young Lee, and Eavan Boland. New episodes released every Monday and Friday through June 18.Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, or wherever you listen.
Who are the friends that, despite different paths chosen, have remained steadfast in your life?In this poem Christian Wiman recalls the changing beliefs of his friends; this one has a new diet, this one has a new relationship, this one is slipping away, this one is verdant. While doing so, he holds the love for his “beautiful, credible friends” as the thing to hold on to while the planet turns faster.Christian Wiman is the author of numerous works of poetry and prose, including He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art and a new book of poems, Survival Is a Style: Poems. He is a professor at Yale Divinity School.Find the transcript for this show at
How has becoming a parent — or being a caregiver — changed you? This is a poem of two halves. In the first half, a man questions God — how could a loving Father allow suffering to happen? And in the second half, the man becomes a father himself, filled with fear and love. His questions about fatherhood change; he’s no longer wondering about the beyond, he’s wondering about the right now.Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet from New York City. “Father” appears in his debut full-length poetry collection Fractures, which was selected by Natasha Trethewey as the winner of the 2020 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. Gómez has won the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry and the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize. His work has been published in New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.Find the transcript for this show at
Comments (18)


May 10th


I'm speechless...

May 6th

Tanya Mathias

“Love can open us up to the possibility of learning new things-“

May 1st

Martha Djourdjin

A wonderfully curated, meditated and presented gem of a podcast. I have been looking for a way to get into poetry and this is just what I needed. The first time Padraig reads a poem, I sometimes feel it can't really reach me, or I just don't get it. Padraig's commentary, full empathy, erudition and vulnerability magically unlocks the door and makes me connect with the poem the second time around. Thank you so much Padraig and team for bringing poetry into my life!

Dec 10th


Hi Pedraig! I am so thrilled to have discovered your podcast. I was deeply moved by the first episode I tuned into (on Dickinson & how friendship endures) and then the next (on “Let” from Genesis). I’m seriously hooked, I’m afraid... Can’t wait to virtually meet you at The Writer’s Hotel later this week!

Oct 18th


Another fantastic show, thank you so much!

Oct 12th


This is a beautiful Podcast, thanks

Oct 11th

Nate Stringer

One of my favorite parts of my week. I love the structure. Read it, talk about it, read it again. And thus far the selections have been magnificent. Thank you for your work!

Apr 17th

Asha SG

my mother and i were forcibly separated after my birth. my mother had several chances to reclaim me between age 4 and 12, but she refused. i held that against her all my life. this poem made me realize that my mother was my first home, my first adventure, my first touch, my first food. we weren't always apart.

Apr 6th
Reply (1)

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


This is beautiful ❤️

Mar 13th


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

Mar 6th


💚🇮🇪 More please.

Feb 26th

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

Goddess Si'mone

Feb 23rd

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

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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