Poetry In America
Arizona State University
Eight new half-hour episodes of Poetry in America began airing on public television stations nationwide (check local listings) and on the World Channel starting in January 2022 and continue through the spring. The series will also be available to stream on pbs.org, poetryinamerica.org, Amazon, and iTunes.
The episodes focus on unforgettable American poems, which guests read and discuss with Elisa New, the series creator, host and director, who is the Director of the Center for Public Humanities at Arizona State University, and the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard. Co-Executive Producer for Poetry in America is Brigid Sullivan. Poetry in America is produced by Verse Video Education of Boston, Massachusetts in association with GBH, and presented by GBH to PBS stations nationwide.
“The poems I've chosen for this season deliver us into so many different moments and worlds,” says New. “From the antebellum south to the farthest reaches of our galaxy, from the Arizona desert to Robert Frost's green Vermont and the thriving Cuban neighborhoods of Miami — Poetry in America allows viewers to see and hear, absorb the vibes, and connect with a diverse array of American voices.”
Season Three guests include Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Julia Alvarez, Joshua Bennett, Rafael Campo, Donna Lynne Champlin, Gloria Estefan, Chris Eyre, Philip Galanes, LisaGay Hamilton, Leslie Jamison, Robin D.G. Kelley, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Emily Oster, Tracy K. Smith, DJ Spooky, David Strathairn, Cassandra Wilson, Natalia Zukerman, and more. They discuss works by A.R. Ammons, Richard Blanco, Robert Frost, Linda Hogan, Bernadette Mayer, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sharon Olds, Alberto Ríos, Evie Shockley, Walt Whitman, and more.
New says, “Whether it's a great singer, distinguished journalist, public servant, or thinker — or, whether it's sixth graders in New York City, or high school kids in Gallup, New Mexico — this season’s guests, and the poems they interpret, speak to the matters that most concern us all: our civic life, our planet, our families, relationships, and deepest feelings."
Poetry in America encourages people from all walks of life to have conversations about poems. The show has been seen by millions of viewers and aired on 96% of public television stations nationwide. Episodes are designed for viewers to experience each poem in an immersive way by hearing, reading, and interpreting it alongside archival materials, vibrant animation, and footage shot at the locations it evokes.
The television series Poetry in America is part of the larger multi-platform Poetry in America educational project, which is an initiative devoted to strengthening Humanities education for learners from a wide range of backgrounds: college, high school, and middle school learners, as well as educators. To this end, New offers a suite of for-credit poetry courses through Harvard Extension School, including a professional development series designed for K-12 teachers, and a for-credit dual enrollment program through Arizona State University. The Poetry in America for High Schools dual enrollment program is offered in partnership with Arizona State University, its online high school Arizona State University Prep Digital, and the National Education Equity Lab. Poetry in America has also worked in partnership with Amplify Education, a publisher of next-generation curriculum and assessment programs, to create an English Language Arts poetry curriculum that has reached 1 million middle school students across the country.
Support for Poetry in America is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Dalio Philanthropies, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Poetry Foundation, Deborah Hayes Stone and Max Stone. Season three is distributed to PBS stations nationwide by PBS Plus, with Seasons one and two are distributed nationally by American Public Television.
ICT Senior Correspondent Patty Talahongva will be co-hosting an event in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday to celebrate Poetry in America's new home in Arizona:
Season Three Episodes:
#301 “The Wound-Dresser”
This episode explores Walt Whitman’s “The Wound-Dresser,” set in the battlefield infirmaries and operating theaters of 1860s Washington, D.C. Actor David Strathairn, playwright Tony Kushner, composer Matthew Aucoin, opera star Davóne Tines, physician-writers Rafael Campo and Abraham Verghese, and historian Drew Faust join Elisa New to discuss how the trauma of the Civil War shaped American history.
#302 “Looking for The Gulf Motel”
Richard Blanco's poem "Looking for The Gulf Motel" transports readers to 1970s Florida, recalling a Cuban-American family’s vacations on the sparkling sands of Marco Island. Blanco and international superstar Gloria Estefan join Elisa New, Cuban American adults in Miami, and middle school students in New York City to reflect on family and what it means to call a place home.
#303 “Cascadilla Falls”
Picking up a hand-sized stone near a rushing waterfall, the speaker of A.R. Ammons’s poem “Cascadilla Falls” is catapulted into the cosmos. Planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, composer DJ Spooky, geologist Daniel Schrag, poet Joshua Bennett, CEO Larry Berger, and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein join host Elisa New to consider Ammons’s window onto the vast workings of the universe.
#304 “you can say that again, Billie”
Billie Holiday’s haunting song “Strange Fruit” winds beneath the unsettling, satiric humor of Evie Shockley’s poem “you can say that again, billie.” Shockley, jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, historian Robin D.G. Kelley, actor LisaGay Hamilton, novelist Beverly Lowry, and radio host Nick Spitzer join Elisa New to discuss the history of racism, violence, and artistic tradition in the American south.
#305 “Mending Wall”
Do good fences really make good neighbors? Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” asks surprising questions about the role of walls in civil society. Host Elisa New gathers Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, author Julia Alvarez, political commentator David Gergen, Frost biographer and poet Jay Parini, poet Rhina Espaillat, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to delve into this classic poem.
#306 “The Language of the Brag” and “The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters”
Sharon Olds’s “The Language of the Brag” and Bernadette Mayer’s “The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters” are exuberant, boisterous tributes to motherhood. Both poets join host Elisa New, actor Donna Lynne Champlin, writer Emily Oster, activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, obstetrician Lorna Wilkerson, and co-founders of Our Bodies Ourselves to explore the miracle, and mess, of creating new life.
#307 “Rabbits and Fire” and “Bear Fat”
Two poems, by Linda Hogan and Alberto Ríos, follow wolves, jackrabbits, and other animals across the harsh Great Plains and Sonoran Desert. Both poets join wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, director Chris Eyre, Native American scholars Philip Deloria and Stephanie Fitzgerald, and students from New Mexico to discuss how the poems call back difficult histories of human migration in the American west.
#308 To be announced.
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About Verse Video
Founded and directed by Harvard English professor Elisa New, Verse Video Education, Inc., is a nonprofit educational media production company that brings the highest quality humanities content to diverse audiences around the world. Verse Video Education produces the multiplatform Poetry in America initiative, which includes the PBS series Poetry in America and educational media and resources for global learners of all kinds. For-credit courses, non-credit learning experiences, and professional development opportunities—including programming designed specifically for high-school students and K-12 teachers—are available in partnership with Arizona State University and Harvard. The Poetry in America series is presented by GBH Boston and distributed by PBS Plus and American Public Television. Season One aired nationally in 2018. Season Two aired in April 2020, and Season Three will premiere in January 2022.
About Elisa New
Elisa New is the Director and Host of Poetry in America, director of the Center for Public Humanities at Arizona State University, director of Verse Video Education, and Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University.
New created Poetry in America, a PBS series, to bring poetry beyond classrooms into living rooms and onto screens of all kinds. The show can be seen on public television and streaming platforms, in schools and libraries, and on airlines. Guests include Joe Biden, Herbie Hancock, Gloria Estefan, Shaquille O’Neal, Elena Kagan, Nas, John McCain, Sonia Sanchez, Tony Kushner, Bill Clinton, Julia Alvarez, Bono, Cynthia Nixon, John Kerry, LisaGay Hamilton, Caroline Kennedy, Bill T. Jones, Katie Couric, and Al Gore and dozens of others.
Alongside the PBS series, New produces educational materials on American poetry for all ages—from middle- and high-school students, to K-12 teachers, to lifelong learners — distributed by Harvard University, Amplify Education, and Arizona State University. In her capacity as Director of the newly established Center for Public Humanities at Arizona State University, New will partner with Arizona State University faculty and with partners from an array of other institutions to create relevant, engaging interdisciplinary content that extends beyond poetry: content that will broaden access to the highest quality learning experiences in the Humanities and adjacent fields.
New is the author of The Regenerate Lyric: Theology and Innovation in American Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 1992); The Line’s Eye: Poetic Experience, American Sight (Harvard University Press, 1999); Jacob’s Cane: A Jewish Family’s Journey from the Four Lands of Lithuania to the Ports of London and Baltimore: A Memoir in Five Generations (Basic Books, 2009); and New England Beyond Criticism: In Defense of America’s First Literature, A Wiley Blackwell Manifesto (Wiley Blackwell 2014).
About PBS Plus
PBS Plus is a syndicated programming service for public television stations, supplementing the primetime, daily news, and children’s content in the National Program Service, providing series, documentaries, drama content and specials to stations. All PBS member stations, reaching all available national TV households, have access to PBS Plus content. Annually, stations are provided with approximately 500 hours of programming via PBS Plus.