Poetry Everywhere

Expand/Collapse Poetry Everywhere


Explore the power of language, look at the world with a fresh sense of wonder, and build reading and writing skills. These video segments, drawn from the PBS Poetry Everywhere series, capture some of the voices of poetry, past and present.

  • Blackbottom, by Toi Derricotte

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Toi Derricotte reading her poem “Blackbottom” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Identity is a central human concern: who am I? Where does identity come from? How much is assigned to us at birth (male, female, black, white, rich, poor), and how much is assigned to us during our lives, as other people try to fit us into stereotypes? How much of our identity do we finally create ourselves?

    For a biography of the poet Toi Derricotte, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Aunties, by Kevin Young

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features poet Kevin Young reading his poem "Aunties" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. “I feel like a poem is made up of poetic and unpoetic language, or unexpected language,” says Kevin Young; “Aunties” is a good example of allusive language, colloquial language, and poetic images all brought together to describe a wonderful lived experience of family.

    For a biography of poet Kevin Young, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • American Wedding, by Joseph Millar

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Joseph Millar reading his poem “American Wedding” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. A father watches his daughter at her wedding, and is filled with mixed emotions. He is proud of her, he loves her, he knows she is happy and in love, but he can’t help feeling the precariousness of her situation as she prepares to embark on adult life.

    For a biography of the poet Joseph Millar, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Brian, Age 7, by Mark Doty

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features poet Mark Doty reading his poem "Brian, Age 7" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Mark Doty’s poems are often about feeling haunted, by people who have died, or places that have been left behind. In “Brian, Age 7”, the poet is moved by the drawing of a boy he has never met, and whose drawing is soon a memory that might be forgotten unless a poem makes it forever memorable.

    For a biography of the poet Mark Doty, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Tornado Child, by Kwame Dawes

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Kwame Dawes reading his poem “Tornado Child” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. This poem is from a book by Dawes called Wisteria, Twilight Songs from the Swamp Country, that is based on the lives and memories of elderly black people living in Sumter, South Carolina. “Tornado Child” is an example of the poems in this book that “unfold with the raw honesty of people who have waited for a long time to finally speak their mind.”

    For a biography of the poet Kwame Dawes please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • The Floral Apron, by Marilyn Chin

    “What is the loss of country if it were not the loss of self?” This is the question Marilyn Chin asks in much of her poetry. This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features Chin, at the Dodge Poetry Festival, reading her poem “The Floral Apron” in which an immigrant woman keeps Chinese tradition alive in America, for the next generation, and for herself, but is she doing the right thing?

    For a biography of the poet Marilyn Chin please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • A Partial History of My Stupidity, by Edward Hirsch

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Edward Hirsch reading his poem "A Partial History of My Stupidity" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Edward Hirsch is drawn to writing about wandering alone in the night, when a person’s thoughts can’t be hidden or drowned out by daily activities, work, or other people’s words. Facing up to what is really on your mind is the exhilarating and scary result of  this night-time wandering.

    For a biography of the poet Edward Hirsch please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Why Are Your Poems So Dark?, by Linda Pastan

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features Bronx born poet Linda Pastan reading her poem "Why Are Your Poems So Dark?" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Linda Pastan’s poems use very simple language and plain statements to describe everyday situations—visiting a museum, taking care of children, listening to a message on an answering machine. But she ends up uncovering the dark worries and threats that hide just below that quiet surface of daily life.

    For a biography of the poet Linda Pastan please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Stone, by Charles Simic

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Charles Simic reading his poem "Stone." "There's a cult of experience in American poetry,” Charles Simic writes; “Our poets, when one comes right down to it, are always saying: This is what happened to me. This is what I saw and felt. Truth, they never get tired of reiterating, is not something that already exists in the world, but something that needs to be rediscovered almost daily."

    For a biography of the poet Charles Simic please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Selected Haiku by Issa

    Originally filmed at the Dodge Poetry Festival, this video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass reading a translation of haiku by the 18th century Japanese poet, Kubayashi Issa. A collection of eight short haiku present vivid, specific, and often funny perceptions of everyday experiences.

    The full text of this poem will be available soon at the Poetry Foundation.

    Grades: 7-12
  • The Wild Old Wicked Man, by William Butler Yeats

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features jazz musician Wynton Marsalis reading the poem "The Wild Old Wicked Man" written by his favorite poet William Butler Yeats. Yeats was the most respected of all Irish poets by the time he reached old age. Throughout his career he avoided the “low” subject matter of many other Irish poets, focusing on classical allusions and themes. But in his old age, he found a voice for the lowly thoughts and emotions inside himself—the Wild Old Wicked Man.

    For a biography of the poet William Butler Yeats please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 9-12
  • I started Early—Took my Dog, by Emily Dickinson

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere uses animation to illustrate Emily Dickinson's poem "I started Early—Took my Dog." In writing about the changing nature of the sea, Dickinson's poem explores themes of adventure, escape, and the depths of the self.

    Read "I started Early—Took my Dog" at the Poetry Foundation.

    Grades: 7-12
  • A Passage to India, by Walt Whitman

    When the Suez canal opened in 1869, Walt Whitman wrote "A Passage to India" to celebrate both the engineering achievement and the opportunity to connect to other people and spiritual traditions. This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the playwright Tony Kushner reading an excerpt from "A Passage to India" that explores Whitman's hope in bringing people together.

    Read this excerpt from "A Passage to India" at the Poetry Foundation.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Facing It, by Yusef Komunyakaa

    Fourteen years after the Vietnam War, veteran and contemporary poet Yusef Komunyakaa wrote about facing the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial wall and the memories and images the wall evoked. In this video segment from Poetry Everywhere, Komunyakaa reads his poem, "Facing It" at the Dodge Poetry Festival.

    Read "Facing It" at the Poetry Foundation.

    Grades: 7-12
  • won't you celebrate with me, by Lucille Clifton

    In this video segment from Poetry Everywhere, two-time Pulitzer Prize nominated poet Lucille Clifton reads her poem “won’t you celebrate with me.” Drawing from Whitman, the Bible, and the tradition of the sonnet, the poem invites readers to explore themes of identity, race, and gender.

    Read "won't you celebrate with me" at the Poetry Foundation.

    Grades: 7-12
  • The Dancing, by Gerald Stern

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Gerald Stern reading his poem "The Dancing" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. A poetry reviewer once wrote about Gerald Stern that his poems “[reveal] his emotions while revealing almost nothing about their origins.” “The Dancing” is filled with emotions that build to a terrible climax—but why?

    For a biography of the poet Gerald Stern, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Success, by Ted Kooser

    Ted Kooser reads his poem "Success" at the Dodge Poetry Festival in this video segment from Poetry Everywhere. Kooser is known for chronicling small changes in everyday environments, especially in Nebraska. For decades he woke at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. every day to write for a couple of hours before going to his insurance job. He believes that simply making time for writing gives him the opportunity to create good work. This poem relates to his personal experience of suddenly becoming well known.

    For a biography of poet Ted Kooser, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12