Poetry magazine, October 1952

communication: poetry for radio

by Cid Corman

What few poets seem to realize is that radio is their best potential outlet these days. It puts the stress rightly on the spoken word, tests the imagination of writer and listener spoken revives the need of the oral-aural commitment in verse, and permits the largest possible audience to experience the poem.

As a rare diet, of course, it undermines itself. But there is no reason today, under sincere and determined effort, that good poetry programs should not be available throughout the country. They con be noncommercial sustaining programs, like This Is poetry.

Nearly three years ago I initiated my weekly broadcasts, known as This Is Poetry, from WMEX (1510 kc.) in Boston. The program has been usually a fifteen-minute reading of modern verse on Saturday evenings at seventhirty; however, I have taken some liberties and have read from Moby Dick and from stories by Dylan Thomas Robert Creeley, and Joyce.

In the approximately 150 programs to date, during which I have had the opportunity to improve my delivery and to appreciate oral detail, I have offered the program to man guest poets, to read and discuss their work. About a third of the programs have been of this kind. My guests have included such writers as John Crowe Ransom, Archibald MacLeish, Stephen Spender, John Ciardi, Theodore Roethke, Pierre Emmanuel, Allan Curnow, Richard Wilbur, Richard Eberbart, Katherine Hoskins, and Vincent Ferrini. A number of the programs have been bilingual, in English and French, Spanish, German, or Italian. I have had young but highly qualified persons, native to the tongues, read the originals against my reading of translations. Programs have been given to Corbiere, Eluard, Lorca, Ungaretti, Benn, and others. Imagine hearing Claudio Guillen, son of Jorge Guillen, read a poem that Lorca wrote for him when lie was a child in Spain....

There has been no attempt, on the program or for that matter in groups, to make the poetry "easy," to take the bones out of it. I try to make my comments short and to the point, enthusiasm often being the most pointed of all commentary. No program is rehearsed. Of course, the poetry is. It is amazing, too, to me, how much comes clear in the final delivery, that necessary interpretation of the whole and its nuances, that is otherwise often overlooked. Comments are improvised. I follow the advice of Marianne Moore, who wisely wrote me when I first started and asked her counsel: "Be spontaneous, above all."

The venture is not a commercial one, and I have had intention of sounding at any time like a professional announcer.


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