Poetry Unbound

On Being Studios

Short and unhurried, Poetry Unbound is an immersive exploration of a single poem, hosted by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Pádraig Ó Tuama greets you at the doorways of brilliant poems and walks you through — each one has wisdom to offer and questions to ask you. Already a listener? There’s also a book (Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World), a Substack newsletter with a vibrant conversation in the comments, and occasional gatherings. read less

Our Editor's Take

Poetry can seem like it operates in a realm inaccessible to most people. Poetry Unbound shows listeners that anyone can learn to appreciate this art form. Poetry reveals the beauty of every day. It offers people something to hold on to through the ebbs and flows of life. This podcast guides listeners through classics to contemporary poetry in short 15-minute episodes.

Host Pádraig Ó Tuama introduces poems by sharing the impact of poetry on his life. Fans of the Poetry Unbound podcast love his soothing voice and steady pace. After reading the selection for the episode, he provides relevant context. His clear and easy way of sharing gives listeners a deeper understanding of the work. These episodes are an approachable introduction to an array of incredible poetry. Ideal for a morning walk or a calming way to end the day, Poetry Unbound brings poems into daily life with ease.

Aside from the usual short episodes, Poetry Unbound offers special guest episodes. These features range from 30 minutes to over an hour, allowing podcast fans to sink deeper into the art. Tuama shares the magic of building community through poetry in conversation with guests. These episodes allow listeners to hear about poets' relationships with their crafts.

Special guests include Harvard professor and acclaimed poetry critic Stephanie Burt. Lorna Goodison, Jamaica's former poet laureate, joins to share her poem "Reporting Back to Queen Isabella." Another notable episode features an enthralling conversation between Ada Limon and Krista Tippett. Danusha Laméris, the former poet laureate of Santa Cruz, CA, shares a poem from her second book. No matter the guest, these episodes bring this crucial art form to life.

Poetry Unboundentrances listeners with its lessons and artistry. With the help of other poets, Tuama ensures the magic of poetry stays alive.

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Episodes

Closing: Poems as Teachers (ft. Kai Cheng Thom) | Ep 7
May 17 2024
Closing: Poems as Teachers (ft. Kai Cheng Thom) | Ep 7
In this concluding episode of "Poems as Teachers," our special miniseries on conflict and the human condition, host Pádraig Ó Tuama says the poems discussed in this offering are a different kind of teacher: “not as teachers that give us rules to follow — more so teachers that share something of their own intuition.” And for a final reflection, he offers Kai Cheng Thom’s “trauma is not sacred,” which speaks directly, fiercely, and lovingly to the pain, scars, and violence that we humans carry and inflict upon one another.Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performance artist, and community healer. Kai Cheng is the author of the novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir; the essay collection I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes at the End of the World (an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book); the poetry collection a place called No Homeland (an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book); and the children's books From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea (illustrated by Kai Yun Ching and Wai-Yant Li) and For Laika, the Dog Who Learned the Names of the Stars (illustrated by Kai Yun Ching). She won the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers in 2017.Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.This is the final episode of "Poems as Teachers," a special seven-part miniseries on conflict and the human condition.We’re pleased to offer Kai’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.
Introducing: Poems as Teachers (ft. Wisława Szymborska) | Ep 1
May 12 2024
Introducing: Poems as Teachers (ft. Wisława Szymborska) | Ep 1
Host Pádraig Ó Tuama gives an overview of this Poetry Unbound mini season that's devoted to poems with wisdom to offer about conflict and humanity. He also brings us Wisława Szymborska’s “A Word on Statistics,” translated by Joanna Trzeciak, which covers statistics of the most human kind — like the number of people in a group of 100 who think they know better, who can admire without envy, or who could do terrible things. Listen, and ask yourself: Which categories do I belong to? Which do I believe?Wisława Szymborska was a Polish poet and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, and she lived from 1923 to 2012. Her poetry is collected in numerous volumes including View with a Grain of Sand, Poems New and Collected, Miracle Fair, and Map.Joanna Trzeciak is professor of Russian and Polish Translation and Translation Studies at Kent State University. She has translated two poetry collections: Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska, which was the winner of the Heldt Prize for translation, and Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Różewicz, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and winner of the Found in Translation Award and the AATSEEL Award for Best Scholarly Translation.Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.We’re pleased to offer Wisława Szymborska’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.
Amber McBride — ROLL CALL: NEW TAROT NAMES FOR BLACK GIRLS
Feb 2 2024
Amber McBride — ROLL CALL: NEW TAROT NAMES FOR BLACK GIRLS
In “ROLL CALL: NEW TAROT NAMES FOR BLACK GIRLS,” Amber McBride treats us to a playful litany of language that twists and leaps and never stumbles. Flavored with old-time Christianity, old-time hoodoo, and a modern alchemy all her own, it talks back to prejudice, reclaims the words meant to take people down, and forges new identities that shimmer with strength and strangeness. Amber McBride is an English professor at the University of Virginia. She is the author of several books, including the forthcoming poetry collection, Thick with Trouble (Penguin Books/Penguin Random House, 2024). Her debut young adult novel, Me (Moth) (Square Fish/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2023) was a finalist for the National Book Award, and it also won the 2022 Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent. McBride low-key practices hoodoo and high-key devours books (100 or so a year keep her well fed). She is a bit of a book dragon; she collects more than she reads. In her spare time, she enjoys pretending it is Halloween every day, organizing her crystals, watching K-dramas, and accidentally scrolling through TikTok for 3 hours at a time. She believes in ghosts, and she believes in you.Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.We’re pleased to offer Amber McBride’s poem, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.
Francisco Aragón — Asleep You Become a Continent
Jan 12 2024
Francisco Aragón — Asleep You Become a Continent
It is an intimate thing, to watch a lover while they sleep. In Francisco Aragón’s translation of Francisco X. Alarcón’s homoerotic poem, “Asleep You Become a Continent,” a man views his sleeping lover’s body like it’s a landscape: legs underneath sheets become mountains and valleys. The waking lover describes this view like an explorer might an unknown country; wondering what he will find.Francisco X. Alarcón was an award-winning Chicano poet and educator. He authored fourteen volumes of poetry, published seven books for children, and taught at the University of California, Davis, where he directed the Spanish for Native Speakers Program.Francisco Aragón is the son of Nicaraguan immigrants. His books include After Rubén (Red Hen Press, 2020), Glow of Our Sweat (Scapegoat Press, 2010), and Puerta de Sol (Bilingual Review Press, 2005).  He’s also the editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press, 2007). A native of San Francisco, CA, he is on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, where he directs their literary initiative, Letras Latinas. His work has appeared in over twenty anthologies and various literary journals. He has read his work widely, including at universities, bookstores, art galleries, the Dodge Poetry Festival, and the Split This Rock Poetry Festival. He divides his time between South Bend, IN, and Mililani, HI.Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.We’re pleased to offer Francisco Aragón’s translation, and invite you to read Pádraig’s weekly Poetry Unbound Substack, read the Poetry Unbound book, or listen back to all our episodes.