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It's World Poetry Day: NPR's love of poetry goes back to its founding


This Tuesday is World Poetry Day, and we are taking note of this day on NPR. May sound like a cliche that you turn on the news and your public radio station is talking about poetry, but in this case, the cliche is absolutely true.


And today we own it. In 1971, the very first year of NPR's All Things Considered, the show featured an anti-war poem. It was by the French poet Jacques Prevert.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Be forewarned, you old guys. Be forewarned, you heads of families.

INSKEEP: I consider myself warned. In more recent times, MORNING EDITION has featured other poets.


FRANNY CHOI: The world keeps ending, and the world goes on.

INSKEEP: Franny Choi wrote of surviving calamities, as did Saeed Jones.


SAEED JONES: But for now, we are alive at the end of the world.

FADEL: Poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht has been thinking of the power of poetry.

JENNIFER MICHAEL HECHT: Sometimes when we go to a culture we don't understand and we see something that looks like poetry, we call it religion or spirituality.

FADEL: Hecht wrote a book about poetry called "The Wonder Paradox."

HECHT: I think of it as gifts from the subconscious. And in some ways, if you want your subconscious to speak to you, you have to give it words that the subconscious can understand.

INSKEEP: Gifts from the subconscious - that sounds like poetry. So why do people feel compelled to write poems?

HECHT: The attempt to express how beauty makes us feel or how sorrow makes us feel is probably real central to our development of language.

FADEL: And Hecht says poetry fits our time.

HECHT: It's because of its brevity and beauty and the fact that it's been built to be read over and over and over.

FADEL: Think of it like an especially compelling tweet, only more thoughtful.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I like that. I like that.

FADEL: My tweets are poetry, Steve.

INSKEEP: Oh, I know that. I know that. You know, I sometimes say poetry to warm up my voice in the morning. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary - it's the rhyme. It's the sound of the words - a lot of things to love about poetry.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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