CommitmentNow.com: What is new for Poetry Everywhere this year?
Brigid Sullivan: This is our third year producing this project in time for National Poetry Month in April. Building on Poetry Everywhere’s collection of 24 short poetry films, our third season adds eight new acclaimed poets reading their work including Marilyn Chin, Toi Derricotte, Martin Espada, Seamus Heaney, Maxine Kumin, WS Merwin, CD Wright, and Daisy Zamora.
We will also be introducing a Poetry Everywhere iPhone App in April which represents a way to bring poetry to new platforms and audiences and increase the overall accessibility of poetry.
CommitmentNow.com: How did Poetry Everywhere evolve as a project?
Brigid: Here at WGBH, we have been nurturing this project for twenty years. We had produced another series in 1988 called “Poetry Breaks” created by Leita Luchetti that helped to inspire Poetry Everywhere. It has long been a subject that we wanted to cover again, that was driven by my personal commitment to poetry, and began to come together again in 2006 once we partnered with both filmmaker David Grubin (who had done another series on poetry with Bill Moyers “Power of the Word”) and the Poetry Foundation.
The idea that motivated our collaboration was that Poetry Everywhere had the capacity to bring poetry into people’s homes via public television. The poems would be made available to stations across the country and they would also stream in full online at pbs.org/poetry. It was all about making poetry more accessible. We decided that the collection of poetry short films would use different techniques such as animation in the case of Emily Dickenson, archival footage of Robert Frost, poets reading their own works, and celebrities reading their favorites.
CommitmentNow.com: What do you hope the viewer takes away from the project?
Brigid: Poetry Everywhere isn’t about the poetry that was taught in high school. Our primary idea is to try to find poems that resonate with people. When poetry works for someone it creates a moment of timelessness and takes you out of the routine of day-to-day life. It’s a wonderful gift if we can give that to people and invite them to slow down and stop for a minute and think about a poem.
CommitmentNow.com: Public radio’s Garrison Keillor is the project’s narrator. How did that come to be?
Brigid: I am personally a huge Garrison Keillor fan. He has a relationship with the Poetry Foundation, our partner in this project, but it is as simple as we asked him and he loves poetry and wanted to support it. As the project’s narrator, Garrison provides the viewer with an introduction and context for each poemthathelps to guide the audience into each poem. We wanted someone that would help introduce the home viewer to the poets because the series airs at unexpected moments, and when you least expect it, there it is and it piques your curiosity while you’re immersed in watching something else. Garrison has a wonderful, familiar voice and because of his regular features The Writer’s Almanac and A Prairie Home Companion on public radio, he is already a trusted authority on the subject of poetry. Garrison’s enthusiasm for poetry is also well documented, in his poetry anthologies, Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times.
CommitmentNow.com: The actress Mary-Louise Parker, the playwright Tony Kushner, and musician Wynton Marsalis are all featured in Poetry Everywhere. How did they become involved with the project?
Brigid: We were looking to involve people such as Wynton Marsalis and Tony Kushner that have a strong personal commitment to poetry. In the case of Mary Louise-Parker, the poem she wanted to read for Poetry Everywhere was Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter.” She is especially fond of Strand's poems. She carried a copy of this particular poem in her wallet for years.
For more information, visit www.pbs.org/poetry.