Adam Zagajewski Reading at Cambridge

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“If only we knew / what music is. / If only we understood,” reads Adam Zagajewski from his poem “Poets Photographed,” included in his collection Unseen Hand, in this 2015 reading at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. Recipient of the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and many other literary awards, Zagajewski died at the age of seventy-five in Krakow, Poland, on March 21, 2021.

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Nawal El Saadawi on Becoming a Writer

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“You do not separate between dancing, music, writing, painting, it’s all one, it is expression of the self,” says Nawal El Saadawi about her journey to become a writer in this 2018 interview with Athena40’s Elizabeth Filippouli. The Egyptian writer and activist died at the age of eighty-nine on March 21, 2021.

Lucille Clifton: A Poet’s Life and Legacy

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“This is a woman, whose great-great-grandmother was a slave from the West African Kingdom of Dahomey, now the Republic of Benin. A woman who went on to be one of the most celebrated artists of her lifetime,” narrates Janice Harrington in this mini-documentary “Lucille Clifton: A Poet’s Life and Legacy,” produced by BOA Editions and Hunger Media.

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The Poetic City That Was

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“It was still the last frontier when I arrived in 1951. It was a wide-open city.” In this 2015 video, Lawrence Ferlinghetti recalls his early days in San Francisco and speaks about the changing life of the city. Ferlinghetti died at the age of 101 on February 22, 2021. An interview with the legendary poet and founder of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is featured in the March/April 2007 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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Toni Morrison on Beloved

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“I am convinced that the more I am well-known, the better known I am, the easier it is for other writers to come along,” says Toni Morrison in this 1987 interview with PBS NewsHour’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault on her success as an author and what inspired her novel Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

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Jean Valentine Reading at Boston University

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“I am poling / my way into my life. / It seems / like another life,” reads the late poet Jean Valentine from her poem “La Chalupa, the Boat” in this 2010 video recorded at Boston University. Valentine is the author of fourteen poetry collections including Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003, which won the National Book Award, and Break the Glass, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She died at the age of eighty-six on December 29, 2020.

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Adrienne Rich

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“There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill / and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows…” In this 2009 video, pioneering feminist poet Adrienne Rich reads her poem “What Kind of Times Are These?” at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Rich died at the age of eighty-two on March 27, 2012.

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National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award to Carolyn Reidy

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“You knew that she was motivated by the basic concept that we’re here for a short while, and we have to make sure we make it about something larger than just ourselves.” In this video from the 2020 National Book Awards Ceremony, authors and colleagues speak about the influence of Carolyn Reidy, the late president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, who was honored with the National Book Foundation’s 2020 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Reidy died on May 12, 2020 at the age of seventy-one.

Weighted Words

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“I come here to talk about metaphor, language, and reality—not too ambitious.” In this 2013 TEDx Talk, the late Daniel Menaker speaks about his mother, who was an editor at Fortune magazine, his love of language, the significance of metaphor, and how phrases become clichés. The venerable writer and editor died at the age of seventy-nine on October 26, 2020.

John Lewis on March

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“When people say nothing has changed, we’re trying to say through March, come and walk in my shoes.” In this 2013 Politics and Prose Bookstore video, the late congressman and author John Lewis speaks about the personal experiences that led to the creation of his award–winning graphic memoir trilogy March, cowritten by Andrew Aydin and illustrated and lettered by Nate Powell. Lewis died at the age of eighty on July 17, 2020.

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