A Literary Podcast Listicle
Feb 14, 2018
I’m wary of listicles, but like all of us with the internet in our pockets, can’t resist reading some clickbait—particularly literary clickbait. Like the one I read about this morning on Electric Lit, “17 Literary Podcasts to Ease Your Commute.” Electric Lit’s list contains some excellent podcasts, which you should definitely check out. I personally love David Naimon’s Between the Covers and learned of a new one I’m interested in checking out, called Banging Book Club, in which three female hosts discuss a different sex book every month. I’m not attempting to replicate their excellent blog posts (which you should definitely read) but rather highlight some of the great podcasts that didn’t make the list. The list was a little light on poetry, which usually flies under listicle radar. In order to fill in the poetry holes, here are a few that I think you should queue up to listen to, on your commute, while making dinner, or, as I’m doing this semester, while throwing lopsided pots in the ceramics studio.
This long-form, lightly edited podcast has been bringing me so much joy this past year. The podcasts run between an hour and two and a half hours, so for me, listening to the conversations between Rachel Zucker and her guests usually stretch over a couple days. At first, I found it a little annoying to not be able to finish in one listen, but I’ve grown to love the way my thinking about the topic deepens when it’s extended over a longer period of time. I keep returning, turning over ideas, writing down quotes. I especially recommend Episode 42 with poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi in which they discuss things as wide ranging as the prize economy in poetry, to living in our animal bodies. Or Episode 38 with Sharon Olds. I listened to Olds’s conversation in the airport and she told me to remember to love myself, to kiss my wrist. I did, right there at the gate, and it was lovely.
Zucker’s conversations with her guests are honest, personal, and often take place in her own apartment. As I get closer to graduation and the end of my time as a student in an MFA program, I’m trying to find ways to continue my poetry education. Commonplace is a curriculum of its own, with books recommended by each guest listed on the website, and exiting, important issues in the writing world discussed in every episode. Oh, and guests always read several poems themselves, which is a joy in its own.
This newish (since summer 2017) podcast is a biweekly series produced by the Poetry Foundation and hosted by poets Danez Smith and Franny Choi. Smith and Choi are two of the most exciting young poets around, and as I’ve learned since listening to the podcast, also some of the funniest. Their banter makes me laugh—often—and then they dive right into heavy things, like surviving in the age of Trump. I’m still thinking about the first episode, with Eve Ewing, a poet, scholar, and community activist based in Chicago. Smith, Choi, and Ewing bring an excited energy and deep engagement with both literature and the community, which is also what the best literary podcasts can do.
I must include a brief mention of the Poetry Magazine Podcast, which is very short, featuring a poem from the most recent issue, read and prefaced by the author, and followed by a conversation between the editors about what they find engaging in the poem. Listen to Paige Lewis read their poem “You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm” and also read it here. I won’t spoil it, but the conversation the editors have about the speaker is enough to keep you thinking all day about what poems can do.
This long running NPR radio conversation and podcast covers all sorts of topics surrounding the question of what it means to be human. For me, and probably many readers of Colorado Review and literature, answering that question begins by reading and writing. Tippett interviews writers of all kinds, but has also devoted many episodes to poets like Layli Long Soldier, Mary Oliver, and Tracy K. Smith. On Being has begun something called The Poetry Radio Project, which is bringing poetry to the ears of a giant audience on more than 400 public radio stations around the country.
And of course, check out Colorado Review’s podcast, which comes out monthly. Our most recent episode is one I’m especially excited about, as it features a conversation with Lauren Haldeman, winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry.