Remembering civil rights history, when ‘words meant everything’

U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and Jeffrey Brown recently traveled from Mississippi to Alabama on a pilgrimage to witness the historical struggles and sorrows people faced during the civil rights movement. On their 100-mile journey, they examine the role of poetry in advancing the movement's message for justice and freedom.

NewsHour Poetry Series

The Poetry Series, featured on the PBS NewsHour and funded by the Poetry Foundation, engages a broader audience with poetry through a series of thoughtful, in-depth reports on contemporary poets and poetry.

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Stuck behind bars, a writer found a way to connect to the world
Reginald Dwayne Betts grew up an honor student with hopes for college, but went to prison at 16 for carjacking, his first run-in with the law. Reading, and poetry in particular, became a . . .

Poetry helps youth at a juvenile detention center find peace
Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy aims to help troubled youths in Chicago’s Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center address their personal issues by writing poetry about their . . .

Poet Robin Coste Lewis evokes the black female form across history
"Voyage of the Sable Venus," the first collection from Robin Coste Lewis, is the winner of this year's National Book Award for poetry.

Poet Rita Dove on what we learned from Nazi liberation, 70 years later
Seventy years ago this spring, Allied forces liberated the Nazi concentration camps and exposed some of the worst horrors of World War II. "Liberation," a poetry collection released last . . .

Why Bill Murray gets up to recite poetry every year
This year, Bill Murray traded comedic one-liners for lines of poetry at a yearly benefit for Poets House, a nonprofit library and cultural center in New York City.

Why we need poetry to slow us down
For MacArthur fellow Ellen Bryant Voigt, nature has always served as an inspiration for her poetry.

What we’ve gotten wrong about this Robert Frost classic
It’s one of the most famous poems in American history. But David Orr, poetry columnist for The New York Times, says “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is widely . . .

Che Guevara’s Son on Cuba’s Coming Identity Crisis
When Omar Perez was 25, he found out his father was the revolutionary Che Guevara. For Perez -- a poet, artist and musician -- the revelation didn’t much change his outlook on life, or on Cuba.

From the fields to the Library of Congress, Juan Felipe Herrera took a winding path to poetry
Juan Felipe Herrera is the son of migrant workers from Mexico, and becomes the first Latino to serve as poet laureate of the United States.

Jeffrey Brown translates his reporting life into a new book of poetry
NewsHour audiences know Jeffrey Brown for his reporting on breaking news, as well as on books, culture and poetry. Now he's the author of his own collection of poetry, aptly titled "The News."

After her husband’s sudden death, Elizabeth Alexander writes their love story
In a new memoir, “The Light of the World,” Elizabeth Alexander writes of love and catastrophe -- falling in love with the man who would become her husband.

Revisiting the Great Migration through paintings and poetry
The Great Migration of 6 million African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North was a shift that reshaped America forever. Artist Jacob Lawrence captured that story. 

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti laments a changing San Francisco
Ninety-six-year-old Lawrence Ferlinghetti settled in San Francisco in the 1950s, where he opened the City Lights bookshop and publishing house.

Say what? Half the world’s languages will vanish by the end of the century
There are over 6,000 languages spoken around the world today. But by the end of this century, fewer than half of them will remain.

Using poetry to uncover the moments that lead to racism
Poet and playwright Claudia Rankine says that the small moments that carve gaps of misunderstanding between Americans lead to big, national moments of misunderstanding, like events in Ferguson . . .

Storymoja festival celebrates flourishing African literature
In September, writers and readers gathered at Storymoja, an annual literary festival in Africa. It was also a time to remember Ghanaian poet Kofi Awooner. Jeffrey Brown reports on new voices . . .

Poet finds solace in elegy of departed son’s wild energy
When Edward Hirsch lost his son to a drug-related cardiac arrest, the poet began collecting his memories. Jeffrey Brown spoke with Hirsch near his home in New York.

Poet remembers fallen friend James Foley
Daniel Johnson reads his poem “In the Absence of Sparrows” written during the 656-day captivity of his friend, journalist James Foley. Foley was murdered by the Islamic State . . .

After fatal gun accidents, children can find comfort in poetry
Poet Gregory Orr speaks of his own childhood tragedy.

Garrison Keillor on loving poetry ‘as clear statement’
NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke with Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac,” about the American Public Media . . .

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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