Poetry on Television

An April 6, 2011, blog post by Danny Heitman on The Christian Science Monitor‘s website examines programs that have brought poetry to the television screen over the years. In “National Poetry Month: How and Why I Celebrate,” Heitman recalls his own introduction to Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry via TV while he recovered at home from minor surgery. At the time, the segment on Bishop was being telecast on the “Voices and Visions” PBS series in the late 1980s.

Heitman notes, “As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better place for would-be poetry enthusiasts to start than where I did—in an encounter with ‘Voices & Visions.'” Although the expensive seven-disc, 13-hour DVD set is available for purchase, Heitman directs readers to the series’ website, which offers video clips from individual episodes and links to additional readings and information on each poet.

Heitman also recommends Bill Moyers’ “The Language of Life.” I saw most segments of this series when it was originally broadcast; it introduced me to the Dodge Poetry Festival, which meant a lot to me when I got to visit the festival years later. The series is available on DVD through PBS and Acorn Online. In addition, Acorn Online offers individual digital episodes available for download immediately upon purchase.

Bill Moyers’ coverage of poetry on PBS has been extensive. In addition to “The Language of Life,” he did a special, “Fooling With Words,” and devoted several installments of “Bill Moyers Journal” to poets and their work. If you want to experience poets and their poetry in a livelier, more natural way, and if you want to get a taste of the spirit of the Dodge Poetry Festival, these programs won’t disappoint.

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