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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 Paisley Rekdal brings us the news in verse. She is the author most recently of the books Animal Eye and Intimate: An American Family Photo Album, as well as The Invention of the Kaleidoscope and The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In. She teaches at the University of Utah, and has spent much of the past year traveling in France and Vietnam.
Paisley Rekdal sat down with NPR's Robert Siegel to talk about her day at All Things Considered watching "the news sausage being made." But she said that what fascinated her most wasn't the news that made it into the show.
Much of her poem focused on ideas from the morning meeting that were rejected — sea birds ingesting plastic, Russian floods, and rooftop missiles to protect the London Olympics.
She was also taken by some writing that had been left on the whiteboard in the NPR conference room. "As always, I'm attracted to the absolutely obscure facts," Rekdal said. "On the whiteboard was a list of reasons why someone named Rick should or should not go to Texas."
The Rick in question is NPR editor Rick Holter, who will soon be leaving and moving to Dallas. The reasons were "hilarious," said Rekdal, "but I thought, well, obviously this is not technically news." Later, though, she changed her mind: "I got sort of obsessed with what makes news and what doesn't," she explained.
Rick did, in fact, make it into her poem, as did a piece about science and technology. Listening to a story about phone apps that turn into medical devices, she thought to herself, an app is just "something that's just supposed to just get you through the day," but they often turn into something more — "a major crutch to help you deal with major life decisions. And I thought, should Rick go to Texas? That could actually be an application on an iPhone."
One more story made her cut. Rekdal's line "the brothel / slowly sliding into a sinkhole" was a reference to a piece by host Melissa Block about some buildings across the street from NPR's office that have been moved. "The story is all about that question of what do you save and what do you erase," said Rekdal. "And I find the issue of erasure constantly fascinating. Especially as I hit middle age."
is a question for the ages, so much
we've developed an app for his decision, to ease
the agony that may appear ridiculous and yet,
small as it is, how much time is spent
wavering in uncertainty: the heart more device now
than compass, which itself was once
an apparatus? If life was an app we'd call it
Sisyphus: why, when we can control floodwaters
and blood, not free ourselves
to be what we are: an ice cube melting
in a sun-warmed glass, the brothel
slowly sliding into a sinkhole?
Didn't we realize too many options
would make us only smaller
increments of time? What choice
when we know the end is the same,
any rooftop can hide a missile, and plastic
still winds up in the belly of the albatross?
It is our decisions that make, not mark,
the journey now. Imagine yours erased:
what would you save, forget; which shifts of the heart
could you begin to follow? Such is the state
that Rick will face: its arid, expansive plot.
And yet, few hopes remain he'll stay the course.
Even with our GPS
he'll manage to get lost.
All Things Considered's NewsPoet is produced and edited by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman.