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Today at All Things Considered, we continue a project we're calling NewsPoet. Each month, we bring in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories.
Today, poet Carmen Gimenez Smith brings us the news in verse. She is the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Puerto del Sol and the publisher of Noemi Press. Her poetry collections include Goodbye, Flicker; The City She Was; and Odalisque in Pieces. She is also the author of the memoir Bring Down the Little Birds, and she teaches creative writing at New Mexico State University.
Carmen Gimenez Smith sat down with Audie Cornish to talk about her day spent with NPR's All Things Considered. She told Cornish that she was preoccupied with the death of Bee Gees member Robin Gibb. "I came in with that in mind," she said.
After observing the morning news meeting, Smith immersed herself in the stories that would air on All Things Considered — many were still in their planning stages.
Much of Smith's own planning was in figuring out what kind of poem to write — eventually settling on an elegy. "I decided to use Frank O'Hara's poem "The Day Lady Died" as a backdrop for the other work that I wanted to get done in the poem," Smith explained.
In order to do that, she examined the O'Hara poem closely. "I thought about the sentences and the music of it," she said, "and I applied the language and the ideas that I heard in the newsroom." In combining the different news items of the day, Smith joked — "I made them into a little mutant."
When asked if the process was difficult, Smith said that starting was the hardest part. "I just worked on the first stanza over and over again, and got a rhythm and a music going." After that, the rest came more easily.
It helped to have the O'Hara poem to work from. "The energy and the themes guided me," Smith said.
It is 12:15 in Washington D.C., a Monday,
the day after an earthquake in Italy, and I'm listening
to "I Feel Love," the song Bryan Ferry said would change
music for good. In Afghanistan a Marine
sergeant tweets about boredom and generators
from a gritty keyboard in Combat Outpost Marjah.
I conjure up the unrelenting sand he describes
in 140 characters while a new Barnard BA strategizes her type
of rekindling and a poli-sci grad at Liberty types up an op/ed
on Romney and values,
and stories get made this way, then taken down.
Just as quickly, the imprint of one a ghost
in the other, the way Harvard links two opponents,
the way a fracture is also a seam.
Songs about rivers inflect an Italian art revolution
or we're forces multiplied both in the streets
of Chicago or in the alliances of nations.
Or we once listened to a soundtrack in falsetto
that sounded like the end of the past
and also the future as our parents waited hours for gas,
but still danced to these new thumps in the analog network
we made of our lives then,
except that time or history whispered their own songs
along the keyboard
and pushed us into the tangle of before,
and the web of last
where everyone and I are still that held breath,
made sharp and vital harmony.
All Things Considered's NewsPoet is produced and edited by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman.