A group of writing instructors and students who over the years formed a ragtag band during late-night impromptu jam sessions at the Bennington Writing Seminars released their first CD earlier this year. Titled Let's Doghouse: A Tribute to Liam Rector, the compilation serves as a memorial to the founding director of the Writing Seminars, a poet, who passed away two years ago.
Giving a public reading, for most writers, involves a good deal of anxiety, a powerful dose of pride in one's work, and the cool relief of getting through the experience without humiliation. Payment often comes in the form of applause. But for those writers whose names regularly appear on book jackets and prize announcements, public readings can mean big business—and big paychecks.
A team representing Saint Paul has won the twentieth annual National Poetry Slam (NPS) in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Minnesotans beat out sixty-seven other teams from across North America to claim the two-thousand-dollar grand prize on August 8. Rounding out the final standings were, in order, teams from Albuquerque, San Francisco, and New York City.
As the number of poetry readings in communities across the country continues to grow, a format that was once relatively rare—the marathon—is becoming increasingly popular.
In the second half of the twentieth century, a number of poets’ theater programs, including the Poets’ Theatre, which was established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1950, and staged plays by John Ashbery, James Merrill, Frank O’Hara, and Richard Wilbur, provided venues for work written by poets for the stage. Now, a new generation of poets’ theater programs are raising their curtains for plays by poets.
Since Dana Gioia was named chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in January, the organization has awarded nearly $1 million to poets and translators of poetry and over $2 million to literary arts organizations. But the highest profile project of Gioia’s term so far begins this month, when six theater companies—from New York City; Chicago; Minneapolis; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Portland, Oregon—will begin a yearlong tour of 100 small and midsized cities across the U.S. to perform a selection of plays by William Shakespeare. A seventh theater company will tour 16 U.S. military bases.
Last spring I embarked on a modest project. Having photocopied 10 of my favorite poems—by poets living and dead, from several different countries—I stapled them into an anthology and stood on a sidewalk in Times Square, where I read the poems aloud. I had no other gimmicks and no amplification. I did this on several occasions, always bringing a friend along for moral support and to assist in handing out free copies of the anthology, which I titled "Antidote."