4.16.14: The Art Of Conversation

Apr 16, 2014
Demo via flickr Creative Commons

Today on Word of Mouth, we're talking about the art of talking. It's not always easy, it's not always fun, but it's often necessary. So how do we avoid those awkward pauses, non sequiturs, and uncomfortable topics? Sometimes we don't, and our first guests implore us that it's OK. They're breaking the rules of conversation and expanding our potential talking points from the weather to spirit animals (spoiler, Virginia's is apparently the attic raccoon). Listen to the show and then continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments

Poetry Out Loud: Frentzen Pakpahan

Apr 16, 2014
Maureen McMurray

Continuing our celebration of the talent from Poetry Out Loud, today we he hear from Frentzen Pakpahan, a sophomore at Dover High School. Pakpahan joined us in studio to recite "The Gift" by Li-Young Lee.


Listen to fellow competitors Eden Suoth and Aliyah Brown.  If you or your school is interested in getting involved in Poetry Out Loud, there's more information how to make that happen here.


Crowds are gathering in Boston today to mark the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Today on Word of Mouth, we remember the victims, the injured, the first responders, and all of those who offered help.

Poetry Out Loud: Aliyah Browne

Apr 15, 2014
Maureen McMurray

Continuing our celebration of the talent from Poetry Out Loud, today we he hear from Aliyah Browne, a junior at John Stark Regional High School. Brown joined us in studio to recite "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by John Keats.

Listen to fellow competitor Eden Suoth recite "Vigil Strange I Kept On The Field One Night" by Walt Whitman here.  If you or your school is interested in getting involved in Poetry Out Loud, there's more information how to make that happen here.

amazon.com, girlsofatomiccity.com, hisotry.ucsd.edu & poetryoutloud.org

Happy Monday, everyone! Halfway through April and the nice weather is finally here. There's a little bit of every subject on today's Word of Mouth. We start with science, move to a look into women's history, and even have lesson in physical fitness before concluding with poetry. Put on your headphones and listen today's show, then join the discussion on our Facebook page!

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments

Poetry Out Loud: Eden Suoth

Apr 14, 2014
Maureen McMurray

What national competition includes poetry, high school students, and more enthusiasm than e.e. cummings with an all-punctuation typewriter? Poetry Out Loud, of course! Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest in which high school students memorize and recite poems in front of an audience. The 2014 New Hampshire Poetry Out Loud Championship took place last month in Representatives Hall at the State House in Concord, and our very own Virginia Prescott was  a gracious and impressed master of ceremonies.

Eden Suoth was one such enthusiastic high school student, and a wildly talented one at that. A twelfth grader at Spaulding High School, Suoth impressed the judges and became a top 4 finalist. We invited him into the studio to read one of the poems he recited at the contest, "Vigil Strange I Kept On The Field One Night" by Walt Whitman.

If you or your school is interested in getting involved in Poetry Out Loud, there's more information how to make that happen here.

Your Public Radio Haikus!

Apr 14, 2014
Livia Cristina, Creative Commons

It's National Poetry Month - but let's face it - verse isn't for everybody.  That's why we're celebrating the occasion with a low-stakes challenge that every NHPR junkie can enjoy: the Public Radio Haiku!  Whether you're a Nobel laureate or a poetry novice, writing haiku about your favorite host or program is fun, easy, and like pledging your support to NHPR (see what I did there?) it only takes a minute or two.

Submit your three-line poem in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter - and give it the tag #radiohaiku.  Just make sure you've got the right number of syllables (5,7,5) as we'll be counting on our knuckles to personally ensure that every submission qualifies. 

Joanne Smith

In honor of National Poetry month, NHPR's Sean Hurley is introducing us to a New Hampshire poet every Friday.  Today we hear from Jennifer Militello.  The Goffstown native has recently published her second book of poetry - "Body Thesaurus."

While her relatives gathered for coffee in her grandmother's kitchen, 9 year old Jennifer Militello would sneak off into a back room to read aloud from the two books she found there.  A heavy collection of Edgar Allen Poe and a slimmer volume of Emily Dickinson.

On a September evening 25 years ago a sold out crowd of logophiles gathered at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth to hear the state's preeminent poets speak in their native tongue. The program for the evening featured just four names, but a weighty four: Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Maxine Kumin and Charles Simic.

Sean Hurley

Since 1996, April has been National Poetry month.  The idea is to draw our attention - to remind us - of the art of poetry. To celebrate National Poetry month locally, every Friday  NHPR's Sean Hurley will introduce us to a New Hampshire poet.  First up -  Christopher Locke.  The NH native has just published his second full length book - "Waiting for Grace and other Poems."

Born in 1968, Poet Chris Locke has lived most of his life in the Granite State.

Carl Van Vechten

Nashua resident Rawn Spearman (1920-2009) was a long-standing student of Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes. The actor and baritone singer, spent time at MacDowell Colony working on a documentary about Hughes. And in 2001 was awarded the Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award by Gov. Shaheen. 

In 1997, he organized a performance of  Ask Your Mama, 12 Moods for Jazz,  Hughes epic poem, designed to be performed with music. Spearman's performance at the Capital Center for the Arts sold out.

Keene State College

Acworth poet Alice Fogel has been named New Hampshire’s next poet laureate.

The Executive Council approved Governor Maggie Hassan’s nomination at a meeting Wednesday.

Alice Fogel was selected from a group of 17 poets nominated for the distinction.

Kyle Potvin of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, one of the groups that coordinated the nomination process, says Fogel’s literary reputation made her an ideal candidate.

via The Poetry Foundation

The Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac is horrifying, unforgettable and open to interpretation. Faithful Jews, Christians and Muslims regard God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice his beloved son as a lesson about the demands of faith, the rewards for obedience, or for some, evidence of God’s cruelty.  

Others see the essence of the story not in the command not to sacrifice, but the command to stop. The parable is alluded to throughout “The Exchange” by Sophie Cabot Black, one of the poems about the exchange of love and money and sex and time which anchors her third collection of poems. Black is among the many writers who will be sharing her work with audiences at the Brattleboro Literary Festival this weekend. 

mollybob via Flickr Creative Commons

People living with dementia can appear to live in their own world, a complicated, non-linear inner world not so easily communicated to, or understood by others. The London-based writer Susanna Howard is attempting to give people with dementia a voice by visiting with them and recording their words as poetry. 

Susanna is artistic director of Living Words, an arts and literature program helping people with dementia feel understood and heard even when communication seems lost. 

Check out the Living Words website here.

Image courtesy Smith College

This year marks the 50th anniversary of poet Sylvia Plath’s death by suicide, the singular lens through which many readers and academics have viewed her life, writing, and marriage. Now, a new generation is re-discovering Plath from a fresh perspective, one not colored by her sad and macabre death. 

Sam T via flickr Creative Commons

Robert Frost recited "The Gift Outright" at John F. Kennedy's swearing in in 1961 and became the first ever Inaugural Poet.  Since then,  there have been only 4 others asked to honor the occasion with a poem.  With “One Today” Richard Blanco (pronounced Blonko) became the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person - as well as the youngest - to write a poem for the transfer of power.  Fitting then that Blanco should be invited to read at Frost Farm in Derry, home of the nation’s first Inaugural Poet.

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

Looking for the best hour in public radio? Look no further than the Word of Mouth Saturday show. 100% nutritional content with no fillers or by products. On this week's show...

  • Ever wondered what it takes to be the Dungeon Master of a Dungeons & Dragons game? David Ewalt tells Virginia the secrets of the popular dice game from his book, Of Dice and Men...
photo: Brady Carlson, NHPR

Each week, at a club in Manchester called Milly's, some of the region's top poets take the stage for what's known as a slam. 

Next week some of the poets who take part in Slam Free Or Die head to Boston, as a team, to compete in the National Poetry Slam.

Mark Palos is Slam Free Or Die's SlamMaster, and a member/coach of the team heading to Boston. He gives All Things Considered host Brady Carlson a preview of the 2013 team.

Robert Frost
Leslie Jones / Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

For more than 30 years, Robert Frost’s old home in Franconia has celebrated the poet on the first Sunday of July.  The Frost Place’s Executive Director Maudelle Driskell says the annual event draws a variety of visitors.

“And it’s everybody from people, just [from] the local area--they want to come out and listen to the readings and see the Frost Place--to people that specifically come up to hear readings on Frost Day, and tourists that are traveling through," Driskell says.  "This year, we hope that we’ll have more families.”

via indiebound.org

Throughout her career the poet Sharon Olds has been asked if her poems were true or autobiographical. There are poems about mothering and domesticity and eroticism filled with personal details and described with remarkable directness and insight. Sharon Olds has rejected the auto-biographical characterization and resisted talking about her life while her children were young, and her parents were alive. She even kept the disillusion of her 32 year marriage from the public; waiting more than a decade to publish Stag's Leap, a collection of poems that is being praised as the best book of her career, and earlier this month won the Pullitzer Prize for poetry.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  For the past 25 years, New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College has hosted a celebration of William Shakespeare’s birthday with period music, theatrical renditions, and public readings of all 154 of the bard's famously melancholic and romantic sonnets. Ryan Lessard brings us this audio postcard.

Poetry In Life

Apr 28, 2013
spo0nman / Flickr/Creative Commons

We'll tackle couplets, stanzas, limericks, sonnets, odes, dirges; free or rhyming verse of any meter. From the epic to the cursory, from the aggressive to the  consolatory, we’re all about poetry today.

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky  from Crime and Punishment

In this fearless edition of Word of Mouth, we take new steps and utter new words about crime, punishment and everything in between.

Photo courtesy Moonmilk.com

Ranjit Bhatnagar is no stranger to cool projects...he's made iambic pentameter from tweets, and is creating a bunch of instruments out of unexpected items, like a robo- toy piano.  Now, the sound artist can add one more feather to his cap...coming on our show.

Inspired Lives: Poet Maxine Kumin

Sep 5, 2012

Maxine Kumin’s career has spanned over half a century. She's the recipient of  awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Kumin was the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress in 1981-1982, and has taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities, including MIT, Princeton, and Columbia. Despite traveling away from home to lecture at schools and universities around the United States, Kumin has retained close ties with her farmhouse in rural New Hampshire.

Inspired Lives: Wesley McNair

Jul 18, 2012
Malcom Cochran

Award-winning poet and New Hampshire native Wesley McNair was born in Newport, grew up in the Connecticut River Valley, and has lived for many years in Mercer, Maine, the state for which he has been named Poet Laureate. Drawing from his personal experiences, McNair's poetry is emblematic of both family and economic hardships, and New England living.

You asked for it...

May 1, 2012
(Photo by Rebecca Lavoie for NHPR)

Last week, we reviewed new experiments in spoken word with Marc Masters of music review site Pitchfork. He told us about the new spoken word album Sex Magic – a poetic reading of lyrics from the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s 1991 release, Blood Suger Sex Magik…

Afterwards, we asked listeners to suggest songs for us to “Blankenship,” our new term for reading song lyrics as poetry.   Here’s the best one we came up with.

Today, we celebrate National Poetry Month with a mix of audio craft and spoken word.  Poetry Out Loud was a band of poets which experimented with spoken word forms in the 1970s.

It’s been said that poetry is all that is worth remembering in life. We asked folks to tell us about their memories of how a poem had affected their life. Rodger Martin from Harrisville, New Hampshire remembered hearing a poem that helped him return to civilian life after a tour of duty in Vietnam.

RODGER: The state of the country was in a far different place in 1970.

Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: "POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price."

Houston usually gets from $2 to $20 for a poem, he says. He's received a $100 bill more than once. The Oakland, Calif., resident has been composing spontaneous street poems in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Five years ago, it became his main source of income.