A Glimpse Of Listeners' #NPRpoetry — From The Punny To The Profound

May 1, 2016
Originally published on April 5, 2017 2:56 pm

Just about a month ago, we introduced a simple idea. And we did it simply. With just a tweet or two, All Things Considered called on listeners to help us celebrate National Poetry Month (April, in case you didn't know). We'd supply the hashtag, or so this simple idea went, and all of you would supply the good stuff — the lines, the lyrics, the sweeping odes and potent gut punches.

Simple at the outset, sure — but your response contained multitudes.

Haiku. Tanka. Tributes to parents balding, or overbearing (and bears, too). Matters of bone and spirit, food and fulsome politics. Poems in at least three languages, poems from at least four different classrooms across the country (including even a third grade class). And a single lost feather, borne to earth on an idle breeze.

Of course, we can't hope to name all the poems that moved us. Please, instead, accept just a few of our favorites from this fruitful month of poetry, read aloud often by the very poets themselves. In one case, Whiting Award-winning poet Ocean Vuong picked his own favorite to read for us.

Read and listen to them below — divided imperfectly into two categories, the latter of which you can skip to with the following link — or just head here to wade deeply into all the thousands of miniature works of art our listeners wrote.

Skip To The Profound

The Funny Stuff

Shelby Boehm

The Profound

Phil Boiarski

Tia Shearer

Sherri Drake

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It's May 1. We're just one day past National Poetry Month, but we just couldn't let April go without taking a few more minutes to look back on the fun of our NPR poetry Twitter callout. So joining me now our man behind the hashtag, poetry impresario, NPR digital editor Colin Dwyer. Hi, Colin.


MARTIN: So it speaks to the power of a simple idea, doesn't it?

DWYER: Right. It's remarkable. It was a just simple hashtag, just one question, and we got such a multitude of responses in return.

MARTIN: How many did we get?

DWYER: It had to have numbered in the thousands. And in fact, single tweeters were responsible for dozens of contributions of their own. It was remarkable.

MARTIN: And I know we became a homework assignment in a few classrooms - sorry, kids.

DWYER: Yes. Four classrooms, (laughter) actually, that we counted. And it wasn't just high schoolers, as you'd expect. There was a third-grade classroom, too. And those poems actually had quite a bit to do with bugs...


DWYER: ...As you might expect.

MARTIN: A lot of bugs, a lot of insects. It could've been a lot of things - skinned knees...

DWYER: Right.

MARTIN: ...Water fountains. It could've been...

DWYER: ...There were some fireworks. Actually, one of my favorites went just like this - (reading) food is great. You should eat it now or you will starve.


MARTIN: Simple, direct, to the point.

DWYER: Yeah, it gets right to the point.

MARTIN: Exactly. Now people - we can't show you this, but there were also some people who sent some lovely artwork and photos to accompany some of theirs, too. But before we go, we just have to ask you - can you just give us just a couple more?

DWYER: Yes. And actually, I'll take this opportunity to weasel in a couple that I personally loved but we just haven't had a chance to feature yet. This one is from Sherri Drake. It goes (reading) I want to build a song for you, but my words are dry like sawmills in summer. Wooden words pile and jam. Nothing flows.

MARTIN: Oh, that's a lot to think about. Anything else?

DWYER: Yeah, there's one from Phil Boiarski, who contributed quite a number, but this was perhaps my favorite. (Reading) We follow the sound of the frog in the wetland. As footsteps approach it stops, having led us to silence.

MARTIN: That is lovely. Well, thank you so much for that. And thank you for taking this on. You didn't realize it was going to be - I mean, it was lovely, but it was a lot of work, actually.

DWYER: It was a lot of work, but it was a pleasure through and through.

MARTIN: I really appreciate that. That's NPR digital editor Colin Dwyer. Colin, until next April.

DWYER: Until then.

MARTIN: All right. Now everybody's on notice. Start thinking up those brilliant Twitter masterpieces now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.