Folklife Today Podcast

Library of Congress

Folklife Today tells stories about the cultural traditions and folklore of diverse communities, combining brand-new interviews and narration with songs, stories, music, and oral history from the collections of the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center. read less


Folklife and Poetry
Apr 30 2021
Folklife and Poetry
This episode looks at folk poetry, with discussions of four poetry-themed collections in the American Folklife Center. Guest Anne Holmes of the Library of Congress Literary Initiatives Division discusses “Living Nations, Living Words,” the signature project of the Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Harjo, the first Native American Poet Laureate, has curated a collection of poetry by Native American poets, which includes recordings of the poets reading their work. The recordings are part of the American Folklife Center archive. The Literary Initiatives division has also created a Story Map to place the poets and poems in a geographic context. The poet M.L. Smoker reads her work “The Book of the Missing, Murdered, and Indigenous—Chapter 1.” Guest Michelle Stefano of the American Folklife Center discusses “Rhyming the Archive,” an event in which members of the poetry slam team Split This Rock wrote poems inspired by materials in the archive and performed them at an event at the Library of Congress. The poet Marjan Naderi reads her work “The Lessons My Mother Taught Me While Preparing Dinner.” Guest Kerry Ward of the Veterans History Project introduces VHP and discusses VHP’s November, 2019, Occupational Poetry Panel, which brought together four Veteran poets to perform their work. Meezie Hermansen performs her work “Tools of the Trade.” Stephen Winick and John Fenn discuss a poem in the American Folklife Center’s archive called “Colorado Morton’s Last Ride.” It’s a ten-minute narrative poem recited by a man named Fred Soule at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) camp in Visalia, California on September 2, 1941. The poem was recorded on an instantaneous disc by Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin, two fieldworkers collecting folksongs for the Library of Congress. Winick discusses the research that led him to discover that the poem, whose original title was “Colorado Morton’s Ride,” was written by Pulitzer-Prize-winner Leonard Bacon and Montana cowboy Rivers Browne. He also reveals the identity of Soule, a public information officer for the FSA. We hear Soule read an excerpt of the poem, and Winick and Fenn promise to release the full poem as a bonus episode.