1. Poet Marianne Moore threw out the first pitch at the opening of the 1968 baseball season at Yankee Stadium. From her poem “Baseball and Writing”:

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing. You can never tell with either how it will go or what you will do; generating excitement— a fever in the victim— pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.

Listen to Marianne Moore read her poetry at 92Y in 1954. Play ball!

    Poet Marianne Moore threw out the first pitch at the opening of the 1968 baseball season at Yankee Stadium. From her poem “Baseball and Writing”:

    Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
    and baseball is like writing.
    You can never tell with either
    how it will go
    or what you will do;
    generating excitement—
    a fever in the victim—
    pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.

    Listen to Marianne Moore read her poetry at 92Y in 1954. Play ball!

  2. A special project for 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, 75 at 75 invites authors to listen to a recording from our archive and write a personal response. Here, Mark Ford writes about a reading by James Schuyler. It was recorded live at 92Y on November 20, 1989. Ford makes his 92Y debut on Thursday night, reading with John Ashbery. It was Ashbery who shared the stage with Schuyler that night in 1989.

    Today is the last day to take advantage of our special National Poetry Month offer of $7.50 tickets—and not just to Ford/Ashbery (April 3), but also to Derek Walcott (April 9) and Michael Ondaatje (April 28).

    Ford writes:

    In his introduction [to a Schuyler reading the year before], Ashbery confessed to feeling a little “jealous” of his friend’s poetry: “He makes sense, dammit, and he manages to do so without falsifying or simplifying the daunting complexity of life as we are living it today.”

    Nearly all of Schuyler’s poems develop a delicate mediation between his memories and his experience of the present; often those memories revolve around friends, many of whom would have been present in the audience that night. One can’t overestimate the importance of friendship to his life and poetry, and it must have been moving for all those who had helped him through so many difficulties over so many decades to see him appearing in public and receiving rapturous applause both before he opened his mouth and then after he said his gruff “Thank you” and sat down.

  3. Audio: Elizabeth Bishop in 1974

    To kick off National Poetry Month—and continue our celebration of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th-anniversary season—here’s an offer too good to refuse: $7.50 tickets to upcoming appearances by John Ashbery (April 3), Derek Walcott (April 9) and Michael Ondaatje (April 28). We like to think it’s National Poetry Month all year round at 92Y, but this special offer is only good till March 31st—so get your tickets today!

    All month long we’ll be uploading new recording-response pairs to our “75 at 75” virtual anthology, starting with Forrest Gander on Marianne Moore and Megan Marshall on Elizabeth Bishop, who reads from “Efforts of Affection”—her memoir of Moore.

    Marshall writes:

    After Moore’s death in 1972, Bishop drafted [“Efforts of Affection”] and read from it on several occasions. When I listened to the Y’s recording of Bishop’s 1974 reading, I understood why she had never “finished” the essay, never published it. Her reading stops short of the story she told our class and several other anecdotes that reveal more complicated feelings for her subject than she may have wished to expose to an audience—whether in an auditorium or at home in arm chairs. What this recording does capture, as almost no other Bishop recording does, is the congenial storytelling voice I heard on several magical occasions, the vivid personality activated in the company of friends, in this case a friend conjured from the past. Listen as the audience begins to catch her jokes and Miss Bishop warms to the response. There she is, giving us

    … life itself,
    life and the memory of it so compressed
    they’ve turned into each other.

    Gander writes:

    Marianne Moore’s poems are more wonderful on the page than they are at this reading. But the reading gives us what feels like a very real experience of her person, of the motion of her mind, of her animated voice and of the vast range of her associations. To me, it is precious. It’s as close as I will come to meeting her.

  4. From “Norwegian Wood” to “Under Milk Wood:” How Dylan Thomas Inspired the Beatles’ Greatest Hits It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the Beatles made their U.S. debut and changed music forever. As we gear up to celebrate the golden anniversary of the Fab Four’s debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 6, a name that keeps coming up as we read about John, Paul, Ringo and George is Dylan Thomas. Did you know the iconic poet was one of the main sources of inspiration for the Beatles? The “Under Milk Wood” author has a few anniversaries of his own to celebrate—October will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth and 62 years ago today, Thomas gave a reading at 92Y. (He also debuted “Under Milk Wood” at 92Y.) Below are the surprising connections shared between the Beatles and Thomas.  Can you imagine a world without John Lennon’s songs? According to Paul McCartney, Thomas was the reason John Lennon began songwriting. “I am sure that the main influence on both [Bob] Dylan and John was Dylan Thomas. That’s why Bob’s not Bob Zimmerman—his real name. We all used to like Dylan Thomas. I read him a lot. I think that John started writing because of him.”  Even the Beatles’ mastermind producer, George Martin, was obsessed with the Welsh poet. In 1989, he conceived, composed, arranged and produced a musical version of “Under Milk Wood,” featuring Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce and Tom Jones.  The album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which many believe to be the greatest album cover of all time, also has a smattering of Thomas. Artist Peter Blake added the poet’s face to the group of people featured on the cover at the request of Lennon. Blake was a huge fan of Thomas’ himself. He debuted an exhibit of illustrations based on “Under Milk Wood” at the National Museum of Cardiff last November—a project that took 28 years to complete.  You can listen to Dylan Thomas’s debut performance of “Under Milk Wood” at 92Y here. The Beatles, of course, can be heard here, there and everywhere. Thanks to Dylan Thomas, that is.

    From “Norwegian Wood” to “Under Milk Wood:” How Dylan Thomas Inspired the Beatles’ Greatest Hits

    It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the Beatles made their U.S. debut and changed music forever. As we gear up to celebrate the golden anniversary of the Fab Four’s debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 6, a name that keeps coming up as we read about John, Paul, Ringo and George is Dylan Thomas. Did you know the iconic poet was one of the main sources of inspiration for the Beatles? The “Under Milk Wood” author has a few anniversaries of his own to celebrate—October will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth and 62 years ago today, Thomas gave a reading at 92Y. (He also debuted “Under Milk Wood” at 92Y.) Below are the surprising connections shared between the Beatles and Thomas.

    Can you imagine a world without John Lennon’s songs? According to Paul McCartney, Thomas was the reason John Lennon began songwriting. “I am sure that the main influence on both [Bob] Dylan and John was Dylan Thomas. That’s why Bob’s not Bob Zimmerman—his real name. We all used to like Dylan Thomas. I read him a lot. I think that John started writing because of him.”

    Even the Beatles’ mastermind producer, George Martin, was obsessed with the Welsh poet. In 1989, he conceived, composed, arranged and produced a musical version of “Under Milk Wood,” featuring Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce and Tom Jones.

    The album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which many believe to be the greatest album cover of all time, also has a smattering of Thomas. Artist Peter Blake added the poet’s face to the group of people featured on the cover at the request of Lennon.

    Blake was a huge fan of Thomas’ himself. He debuted an exhibit of illustrations based on “Under Milk Wood” at the National Museum of Cardiff last November—a project that took 28 years to complete.

    You can listen to Dylan Thomas’s debut performance of “Under Milk Wood” at 92Y here.

    The Beatles, of course, can be heard here, there and everywhere. Thanks to Dylan Thomas, that is.

  5. From the Poetry Center Archive: Discovering Lucille Clifton

    boys
    i don’t promise you nothing
    but this
    what you pawn
    i will redeem
    what you steal
    i will conceal
    my private silence to
    your public guilt
    is all i got
    Today we share a recording from Lucille Clifton, who first read at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center on April 28, 1969, as one of the “Discovery” contest’s earliest winners. The poems she read that night were, as she said, of “people, places and things perhaps we all know.” Some were untitled and “all of them short … you might think after a point you might be hearing one long poem, which may be true.” Her first book, Good Times, which includes work presented that night, was published later that fall.
    For the past six decades, the “Discovery” competition has launched the career of many of America’s most prominent poets, including John Ashbery, Rosanna Warren, and Susan Mitchell—all final judges of this year’s competition. Four winners are awarded a reading at the Poetry Center, publication in Boston Review and a cash prize. The submission deadline is Friday, January 24, at 5 pm. For guidelines, and to apply, visit 92y.org/Discovery.

  6. A special project for 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, 75 at 75 invites authors to listen to a recording from our archive and write a personal response. Here, Helen Vendler writes about a recording of Wallace Stevens reading from his work. It was recorded at 92Y on November 6, 1954. “To think a voice gone forever—and then to find some living traces of it still!” Vendler has written. “I feel for Stevens a relation of kinship I have felt with only two other people—and an almost familial warmth filled my soul as I heard him speak again.”

    Vendler, our most renowned poetry critic, returns to 92Y on Wednesday, November 20, for her annual lecture. This year’s topic is Wordsworth.

    A champion of contemporary poets, too, Vendler has long praised Jorie Graham, whose 92Y reading last month is now available on our Poetry Center Online: “Graham risks everything, and perhaps cannot always keep the several parts from flying apart—but the wildness of the risk is itself exhilarating to encounter,” Vendler has written. “No good poet can stand still, and to read under Graham’s powerful impetus is to have one’s consciousness, like molten glass, pulled into unforeseen—and sometimes almost unbearable—shapes.”

  7. A special project for the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, 75 at 75 invites authors to listen to a recording from our archive and write a personal response. Here, Henri Cole writes about a recording of Robert Lowell reading from his work. It was recorded at 92Y on December 8, 1976.

    During his final appearance at the Y, he was charming and funny, reading from the newly published Selected Poems (“instead of having about eight rather small thin books to fumble through”). He told the audience that he believed in chronology in everything, rather than having little sections called “friendship and wisdom and divine wisdom.” But on this occasion he had paired off the poems—about homecomings; about his first wife, his “old flame” Jean Stafford (“one of our best writers,” who was quite ill); about Robert Frost (“a man of great magnanimity and generosity and music and intuition”); about William Carlos Williams (“who was terrified of his old mother”); about Stalin (“I suppose Stalin was a Statesman, wasn’t he? He believed in the State”; about his third wife, Caroline Blackwood (“gay, disrespectful” poems), who becomes a mermaid, a “Rough Slitherer” in her ocean caves, in his poem “Mermaid”; and, finally, about the act of writing itself. Lowell ended the night with “Epilogue,” saying that a poem has to be more than memory, “and yet memory, we’re told, is the mother of the muses. Memory is genius—but you have to do something with it.”

    Cole, poetry editor at The New Republic, returns to 92Y this Thursday to read from his latest collection, Touch.

  8. Alexander McCall Smith, long fascinated by W. H. Auden, is here tonight to talk about his book, What W.H. Auden Cam Do For You.
Head to the Poetry Center Online for some advance prep:
W. H. Auden reads a selection of his work, including “Bucolics” and “Horae Cononicae”.
W. H. Auden reads from The Sea and The Mirror. 
W. H. Auden reads a group of early lyrics, culminating with his recitation of “Metalogue to The Magic Flute.” 
And finally, a Tribute to W. H. Auden.

    Alexander McCall Smith, long fascinated by W. H. Auden, is here tonight to talk about his book, What W.H. Auden Cam Do For You.

    Head to the Poetry Center Online for some advance prep:

  9. This week we are sharing, in celebration of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, five new installments—one per day—of our 75 at 75 project, which features recordings from the Poetry Center’s archive and personal responses by contemporary authors. Today it’s Dubravka Ugrešić on a recording of Susan Sontag from 1992Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview will be published next week.

    Asked what a writer is, Sontag pauses for a second and cautiously responds that “there are all kinds of writers” and that “every definition of a writer is true,” before clearly articulating her own definition: “A writer is someone who pays attention to the world.” “A writer is a professional observer,” she adds. And onwards, like a flash flood, as if to assert her manifesto in a single breath, Sontag speaks of the loneliness that is a prerequisite to writing (“writing does require solitude”); about political activism (how writers “should allow themselves to be drafted”); of how the contemporary writer is “a handworker in the era of mass production”; of how one becomes a writer simply because one “couldn’t help not to be a writer”; of writing as obsession and “auto-slavery”; of both American anti-intellectualism and the trap of elitism, not infrequently a mask for anti-intellectualism. “A writer is someone who creates or tries to create literature,” says Sontag, yet “literature is a tiny percent of what is produced in book form.” 

  10. This week we are sharing, in celebration of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, five new installments—one per day—of our 75 at 75 project, which features recordings from the Poetry Center’s archive and personal responses by contemporary authors. Today it’s Kay Ryan on a recording of William Carlos Williams from 1954.

    Listening to this old recording of William Carlos Williams reading at the Y made me think again about the whole question of voice and where it resides: is it on the stage or on the page? I must confess a predisposition to the page.

    It was Dr. Williams who gave the very first Poetry Center reading on October 26, 1939. The price of admission that night was 50 cents.