Introducing VS Podcast: Where Poets Confront the Ideas That Move Them
Hosted by the poets Danez Smith and Franny Choi, VS podcast is a new Poetry Foundation feature with new episodes every other Tuesday. You can subscribe to VS on iTunes, Google Play, and at poetryfoundation.org, or follow it on Soundcloud. VS is produced by Daniel Kisslinger and co-presented in partnership with Postloudness.
A dear friend once told us about a time an instructor in his MFA program walked into class and announced: “Today, we are looking at poems that engage with the world.” As poets who cut our teeth partly in the world of the poetry slam, we couldn’t help but laugh. The idea that poetry is something that exists apart from “the world” (whatever that means) is certainly a weird one. And yet we’ve witnessed the prevalence of that weird assumption in the machine that makes poetry go, from journals that release special issues for “political” poems, to the MFA-powered herding of poetry into the halls of academia.
But poetry is not an indoor cat. It lives in basement bars and middle school classrooms, on barbecue restaurant billboards and on Netflix. And it comes from everywhere—from the news, yes, and also from competitive drag competitions and comic books and experiences of marginalization and sociological studies and city parks and Taco Bell. Every poet wrestles with the world. Every poem is speaking to some greater outside—at least, so do the poems that we think are most exciting and necessary in this moment.
This is why we are excited to bring you VS, the podcast where poets confront the ideas that move them. We started this project because we wanted to have conversations with the people who have chosen to stand between the world and its articulation into language. We wanted to talk to poets who are reimagining how and for whom poetry lives in the world. And we wanted to talk not just about craft and mechanics, but about the why—about the questions that drive poets to the page.
(Also, we wanted a respectable excuse to hang out with some of our favorite writers and gossip over pizza.)
Every two weeks, we’ll bring you interviews with writers you love (or will love soon). We’ll engage in conversations about some of the themes that each poet is currently wrestling with, both in their work and in the world. We’ll play a few games, spill a little tea, and talk serious shop with your faves.
We (Franny Choi and Danez Smith) are two queer poets of color. We are writers, organizers, teachers, and cornballs. We’re also friends who have given each other feedback on poems—and outfits—for the past five years. We like our whiskey strong and out poetry stronger. We believe we all deserve a better world than the one we’ve currently got. And we have a LOT of thoughts about the “Rupaul’s Drag Race” finale.
As you may have guessed, this isn’t your uncle’s poetry podcast; we aren’t trying to bring you an experience that requires an MFA for entry. As much as we love talking about poems, we also love talking about love, bad TV, good food, self-care, avoiding bill collectors, and everything under the sun. So tune in if you love poetry; if you love hearing good conversations with brilliant, goofy people; if you like to laugh; if you are hungry to learn; if you are alive and trying to stay that way. This podcast is our small offering to you as we wade through the current America. With these interviews, we hope to offer hope, relief, fuel to keep striving, and tools to keep surviving.
Franny Choi is the author of the collection Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) and the chapbook Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). She has been a recipient of Poetry magazine's Frederick Bock Prize, as well as fellowships from Kundiman, VONA, and the Rhode island State Council...
Danez Smith was born St. Paul, Minnesota. They are the author of Don't Call Us Dead (2017), a finalist for the National Book Award; [insert] Boy (2014), winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; and the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship Books, 2013). Smith is the recipient...