Monday, February 16, 2015

Mike Chasar

Mike Chasar is the author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America.

From his 2014 Q & A at Critical Margins:

You refer to “old-time radio poetry shows.” I had never heard of those. What are some examples of them?

In the late 1920s and early 30s, many American radio networks experimented with broadcasting poetry. A.M. Sullivan hosted the New Poetry Hour. Eve Merriam ran Out of the Ivory Tower, which featured interviews with politically progressive poets like Muriel Rukeyser, Kenneth Fearing, and Genevieve Taggard. As early as 1926, David Ross was broadcasting readings of Christopher Marlowe, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, Matthew Arnold, and Robert Frost. John Holland read poetry regularly on the Little Brown Church of the Air. Don McNeill read poetry on The Breakfast Club. So on and so forth.

From what I can determine – the archives for old radio are sketchy and incomplete – the two most popular poetry radio shows were Between the Bookends with host Ted Malone and R Yuh Listenin’? with host Tony Wons, both of which read poetry over the air and fielded poem requests from listeners in what amounted to some of the first “long-distance dedications.” Between the Bookends was so popular that, at the height of its popularity, it received over 20,000 fan letters per month – per month! – and word of its cancellation at least once led to outpourings from fans that kept the program on air. Both shows also had successful print tie-ins...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue