Poetry Centered features curated selections from Voca, the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s online audiovisual archive of more than 1,000 recordings of poets reading their work during visits to the Center between 1963 and today. In each episode, a guest poet introduces three poems from Voca, sharing their insights about the remarkable performances recorded in our archive. Each episode concludes with the guest poet reading a poem of their own.
Matthew Zapruder: Poems for Passengers
Matthew Zapruder selects poems that employ the powers of song, memory, and imagination as points of reflection and comfort amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He shares Adam Zagajewski conjuring a life lost to his family (“To Go to Lvov”), Gerald Stern recognizing the fortunate circumstances of his domestic and writing lives (“Lucky Life”), and Li-Young Lee traversing his own psychic landscape (“I Loved You Before I Was Born”). Zapruder closes by reading his “Poem for Passengers,” which celebrates public spaces and the momentary relief from differences they can afford.
You can find the full recordings of Zagajewski, Stern, and Lee reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
Adam Zagajewski (1989)
Gerald Stern (1983)
Li-Young Lee (2020)
You can also watch a reading by Zapruder for the Poetry Center from 2019.
Khadijah Queen: Keywords
Khadijah Queen homes in on her selections by following three keywords through the archive: disobedience, Detroit, and joy. She introduces Rachel Zucker’s lecture on the confessional mode in poetry (“What We Talk About When We Talk About the Confessional and What We Should Be Talking About”), francine j. harris’s lyric dense with complicated emotions (“katherine with the lazy eye. short. and not a good poet.”), and Monica Sok’s poem of gentle power in the face of trauma (“The Woman Who Was Small, Not Because the World Expanded”). Queen closes by reading “Declination,” which approaches her chosen keywords through the lens of making art.
Watch the full recordings of Zucker, harris, and Sok reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
Rachel Zucker, lecture (2016)
francine j. harris (2015)
Monica Sok (2020)
You can also find a reading by Khadijah Queen on Voca, which was given in 2016.
Sara Borjas: A Particular 'Us'
Sara Borjas introduces poems that focus on the connections between a particular, collective ‘us’—people connected by lineage or language, by place, or by the acts of writing and reading. She shares Layli Long Soldier’s exploration of wholeness and mother-daughter relationships (“WHEREAS her birth signaled…”), Juan Felipe Herrera’s centering of people and complexity (“Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way”), and Richard Siken’s breaking of the fourth wall to implicate the reader (“Planet of Love”). To close, Borjas reads her poem “Narcissus Complicates an Old Plot,” a celebration of mothers and daughters, language, and community rooted in place.
Watch the full recordings of Long Soldier, Herrera, and Siken reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
Layli Long Soldier (2017)
Juan Felipe Herrera (2009)
Richard Siken (2002)
Transcripts for each episode are available here. Click on the episode title, then click on the transcript tab at the bottom of the player. Poems are transcribed as read and do not represent the published work.
Chet’la Sebree: Liminality
Chet’la Sebree leads us to acknowledge liminal spaces, those places that are not quite one thing or another, moments of transition and not-yet that have become so familiar to us throughout the pandemic. Sebree introduces Camille T. Dungy’s recognition that grief relentlessly intrudes on joy (“Notes on What Is Always with Us”), Brenda Shaughnessy’s reflection on the difficulties of understanding time (“Three Summers Mark Only Two Years”), and Ada Limón’s transformative rendering of relationships (“What I Didn’t Know Before”). Sebree closes with a new poem of her own on liminality, “Blue Opening.”
Watch the full recordings of Dungy, Shaughnessy, and Limón reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
Camille T. Dungy (2016)
Brenda Shaughnessy (2005)
Ada Limón (2018)
Anthony Cody: Necessary Discomfort
Anthony Cody selects poems that ask hard questions about war, borders, gender, power, US history, and ourselves—questions asked in order to remind us of the discomfort necessary for change on individual and collective levels. Cody shares Pat Mora’s inversion of relationships between speaker and audience, pursuer and pursued (“La Migra”), Michael S. Harper’s use of staccato repetition to sear atrocity into memory (“A White Friend Flies in from the Coast”), and Diana García’s revelation of truths that span generations (Excerpts from “Serpentine Voices”). Cody closes with his translation of Juan Felipe Herrera’s “Dudo las Luces / I Question the Lights,” which draws attention to the forgotten in our political landscape.
You can find the full recordings of Mora, Harper, and García reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
Pat Mora (1996)
Michael S. Harper (1973)
Diana García (2002)
Wendy Xu: Why Write
Wendy Xu curates poems that underscore the necessity of attention for the writing of poems, reminding us that to write is to think, to look, and to be present. She introduces James Tate on bending reality through attention to everything (“Rescue”), Mei-mei Berssenbrugge on the connection between the spiritual and the somatic (“Hello, the Roses”), and Joyelle McSweeney on being unafraid of excess (“Percussion Grenade”). Xu closes with her poem “Why Write,” which engages with the past as a living, risky force.
You can find the full recordings of Tate, Berssenbrugge, and McSweeney reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
James Tate (1968)
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (2010)
Joyelle McSweeney (2012)
Great Poems, Smart Commentary
I love hearing poets talk about poems they love. Poetry Centered is just that. It’s a pleasure to listen
Poets bring poets to life
It’s always wonderful to hear poets speak about the poets whose work is meaningful to them! Each guest’s selection from the Poetry Center’s amazing audio archive, and their commentary on it, is a delight.
The Poetry Center at the university of Arizona is an incredible source for poetry & education. So glad they are sharing this bringing with the world!