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Every weekday, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivers a different way to see the world – through poetry. Produced in partnership with the Library of Congress and the Poetry Foundation.


13: What the Memories Said

December 12, 2018 · Duration: 5:32 · Play

What the Memories Said by Crystal Williams You, woman, bearing your losses, the dog’s leash taut in your hand, how can you so blind & quickly pass us on your morning walks? Haven’t you yet learned there are happenings on planes you do not see? The dog knows we are here & have crucial news. […]

12: Hair on Fire

December 11, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Hair on Fire by Jim Daniels We ironed fall leaves                 between wax-paper sheets. We melted crayons into candles                 and froze Kool-Aid into popsicles. We poked cloves into oranges. We grew roots                 on sweet potatoes tooth-picked in water. We taped our broken glasses together                 and shut up. We made shoe-box dioramas with Play-Doh and modeling clay. […]

11: Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine’s School for Girls

December 10, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine’s School for Girls by Tarfia Faizullah “If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow.” -Orhan Pamuk Before the hanging cross, the girls take turns standing at attention before us with eyes closed or hands clasped, headbands bright […]

10: The Humanities

December 7, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

The Humanities by Catherine Barnett A classmate and I chose pendulums, what happens when a pendulum hangs from a pendulum? How does gravity work then? We were studying invisible forces and left the classroom, heading into the world with just our two bodies, which were to be both string and bob. In the woods behind […]

9: Portrait of the Alcoholic with Withdrawal

December 6, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Portrait of the Alcoholic with Withdrawal by Kaveh Akbar everyone wants to know            what I saw on the long walk away from you                        I couldn’t eat            and didn’t sleep                        for an entire week I can hardly picture any of it now            save the fox I thought was in the grass but wasn’t                        I remember him […]

8: Pentatina for Five Vowels

December 5, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Pentatina for Five Vowels by Campbell McGrath Today is a trumpet to set the hounds baying. The past is a fox the hunters are flaying. Nothing unspoken goes without saying. Love’s a casino where lovers risk playing. The future’s a marker our hearts are prepaying. The future’s a promise there’s no guaranteeing. Today is a […]

7: Reverse Suicide

December 4, 2018 · Duration: 3:53 · Play

Reverse Suicide by Matt Rasmussen The guy Dad sold your car to comes back to get his money, leaves the car. With filthy rags we rub it down until it doesn’t shine and wipe your blood into the seams of the seat. Each snowflake stirs before lifting into the sky as I learn you won’t […]

6: Brokeheart: Just like that

December 3, 2018 · Duration: 5:26 · Play

Brokeheart: Just like that by Patrick Rosal When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m. and I confess I’m looking over my shoulder once or twice just to make sure no one in Brooklyn is peeking into my third-floor window to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed for […]

5: In the Hospital

November 30, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

In the Hospital by Chen Chen My mother was in the hospital & everyone wanted to be my friend. But I was busy making a list: good dog, bad citizen, short skeleton, tall mocha. Typical Tuesday. My mother was in the hospital & no one wanted to be her friend. Everyone wanted to be soft […]

4: Donating the Cake Dome

November 29, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Donating the Cake Dome by Lisa C. Krueger She couldn’t stop—she did it almost every afternoon while they napped or later sat upstairs with homework. She listened to the scrape of desk chairs on the ceiling while she measured and blended, hummed from oven to sink, redolence rising in a sweet promise she thought was […]

3: Proximities

November 28, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

Proximities by Lia Purpura A man walks into a coffee shop. But it’s not a joke. I bought coffee there last summer. Small, with milk. It’s never a joke to walk in or out of a shop unharmed. It’s easy to forget you aren’t a person being shot at. I’m not. I wasn’t, though I […]

2: True Stories about Koko Taylor

November 27, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

True Stories about Koko Taylor by Eve L. Ewing Koko Taylor walked up on John Henry took the hammer right out his hand and bent it and twisted it into a fine necklace and took him to a real nice dinner. Koko Taylor had twelve thousand wigs. One she never wore. Just kept at home. […]

1: 564 park avenue

November 26, 2018 · Duration: 5:00 · Play

564 park avenue by Aja Monet abuelita’s hands were a time card she clocked in and out, morning and night. they were a pile of dirty sheets at the foot of a bed, gnarled broomsticks, dustpans, and sooty vacuums, her hands were soiled rags in yellow gloves, they were two pillows beaten of mites and […]

Coming soon: The Slowdown

October 1, 2018 · Duration: 4:14 · Play

Life is fast, intense and sometimes bewildering. But poetry offers a way of slowing things down, looking at them closely, mining each moment for all that it houses. Look for new episodes with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith in late November.