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.

  • 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
  • Lake Echo, Dear, by C. D. Wright

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet C. D. Wright reads her poem “Lake Echo, Dear” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Born in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas in 1949, Wright has developed a style of poetry all her own—both experimental and Southern, implicit in its lyrical utterance and yet grounded in an inherent sense of the unutterable.

    For a biography of the poet C. D. Wright please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    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
  • 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
  • Exploring Selected Haiku by Issa

    Discover the haiku of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa. This media-rich lesson examines the format, humor, and nature of haiku by Issa. Students analyze various haiku and write their own.

    Grades: 7-13+
  • After Making Love We Hear Footsteps, by Galway Kinnell

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Galway Kinnell reading his poem “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Rhode Island-born Kinnell’s poetry shows the power of love and spirituality flowing through the small moments and interactions of everyday life.

    For a biography of the poet Galway Kinnell, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 9-12
  • 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
  • Yesterday, by W. S. Merwin

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet W. S. Merwin reading his poem “Yesterday” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Merwin has said this about the role of the poet in society: “We keep expressing our anger and our love, and we hope, hopelessly perhaps, that it will have some effect.” In “Yesterday”, anger and love are present—what is their effect, on the narrator, and on the reader?

    For a biography of the poet W. S. Merwin please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Slow Dance, by Matthew Dickman

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Matthew Dickman reading his poem “Slow Dance” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. “Human beings are meaning-making creatures. We cannot help it. We cannot stop doing it.” This quote from Matthew Dickman could be the motto of everyone who reads poetry: even when you are not quite sure you understand it, you want to find meaning in it, and you do.

    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
  • Exploring Contrasts in "The Lanyard," by Billy Collins

    In "The Lanyard," by Billy Collins, the speaker remembers a gift he made for his mother. This media-rich lesson helps students explore how contrasting images in a poem can create meaning.

    Grades: 7-13+
  • 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
  • Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features former Poet Laureate Billy Collins reading his poem "Forgetfulness" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. The poem ranges through a catalog of things known and now forgotten. Collins uses humor and irony to take us through the experience of memory loss.

    For a biography of poet Billy Collins, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • For What Binds Us, by Jane Hirshfield

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Jane Hirshfield reading her poem "For What Binds Us" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. What does it mean to have a relationship over time? Jane Hirshfield wonders in her poetry about different kinds of bonds between people, some of which we cannot anticipate. How much we can really help each other, even the ones we love? How does time change relationships and heal wounds?

    For a biography of the poet Jane Hirshfield please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Belle Isle, 1949, by Philip Levine

    In this video segment from Poetry Breaks, poet Philip Levine reads his poem, "Belle Isle, 1949," about a late night meeting and swim that takes place between two strangers. The poem explores themes of connection, boundaries, and where we come from.

    Read "Belle Isle, 1949" at the Poetry Foundation.

    Grades: 7-12
  • 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
  • Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper, by Martin Espada

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Martín Espada reading his poem “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Fighting for justice is a constant theme in Martín Espada’s poetry. Here, in “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper”, a seemingly good situation (a young man working his way up from factory work to law school) is undermined by the injustice built into every aspect of society, right down to the paper he writes on.

    For a biography of the poet Martín Espada 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
  • 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
  • What Kind of Times Are These, by Adrienne Rich

    This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Adrienne Rich reading her poem "What Kinds of Times Are These" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. The poem, responding to a line by the poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, explores politics and place.

    Grades: 7-12