I Hear America Singing: The Poetry of American Identity

February 5, 2017

As I’ve been thinking about ongoing posts that speak to American identity, I came across a wonderful site, The Poetry of American Identity.  It’s provided by the Library of Congress and is “a collection of field recordings by a wide range of award-winning contemporary poets. Each poet reads a singular American poem of his or her choosing, and also speaks to how the poem connects, deepens, or re-imagines our sense of the nation. The feature includes a print version of the poem to complement the recording, as well as a piece by the participating poet.”  So you can read and listen to this wide ranging sense of what America is, and what it is to be American.  I think there are 19 poems, and I’m going to start with Ed Hirsch’s reading and discussion of William Carlos Williams’ “To Elsie.”  I think.   Doesn’t matter, I’m going to listen to all of them.  I hope you’ll share your reactions right here.  I’m imagining all of us gathered in someone’s big comfy living room, listening and talking.

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  • Reply Kathleen McGookey February 5, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    This looks like a wonderful resource. I am looking forward to listening! Thank you for posting.

  • Reply sharonbryanpoet February 5, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks. I’m having a great time listening: Ed Hirsch on Williams, Amy Gerstler on Tate, Nicky Finney on Bessie Smith, JD McClatchy on Whitman. Really interesting.

  • Reply sharonbryanpoet February 5, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Ohhh, this looks good! Thanks, Sharon. & thanks for doing this whole discussion in this oh so prosaic time!

    Anne Pitkin

  • Reply christine jones February 5, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I love this. Thanks for sharing. I just listened to Naomi Shihab Nye reading Lisa Suhair Mujaj. I, too, enjoyed how this poem responds by engaging rather than pushing back.

    I read a condensed interview with Bernie Sanders in today’s NYT’s Education insert. When asked about private versus public university funding, he remarks on a good friend of his who teaches poetry at UVM, and how we “can’t just look at things from a corporate perspective,” because even though there’s not a great market for poets, “teaching poetry is important.” Imagine if Bernie had won?

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