Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"When the Towers Fell" by Galway Kinnell

Source: The Poetic Voice (mp3)
Length: 20 minutes
Reader: Galaway Kinnell

The poem: Galway Kinnell is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning poet. As he explains in the introduction to the poem, Kinnell was preparing to teach poetry for the first day of classes at NYU when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He began this poem as a writing exercise to help the students come to terms with their emotions, but the poem grew into its present form over time.

Almost ten years after the September 11th terrorist attacks, I had almost forgotten the sense of doom and melancholy that blanketed the nation. Kinnell captures those feelings and images so well, I feel like I'm back in the moment. The litany of the individual deaths in the collapse as well as the description of the woman looking for her loved one give the poem a personal, up-close quality. This is not a sanitized eulogy or fist-pumping patriotism, but a somber, realistic remembrance of the victims and survivors.

Rating: 9 /10

The reader: Kinnell has a strong, resonant voice that is a joy to listen to. He reads the poem with a strong sense of rhythm, drawing out the emotion of the poem without becoming emotion himself. The discussion with Houghton Mifflin poetry editor Janet Silver is enlightening, putting Kinnell and his poem in context. If you are interested in poetry, this is a good podcast series. Besides this episode, I strongly recommend April's episode, featuring a variety of poets for National Poetry Month (mp3).

(photo by TheMachineStops, edited by upstateNYer via Wikimedia. Creative Commons attribution, share-alike license)

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