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Vinyl Rhyme and Lacquered Verse: Celebrating National Poetry Month


Over the final yr, 1000’s of lacquer phono discs from the Municipal Archives WNYC audio assortment have been digitized as a part of a challenge supported by a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to the WNYC Foundation. The discs span from the Nineteen Twenties to the Nineteen Sixties, offering a window into mid-Twentieth century life and tradition in New York. WNYC, the City’s radio station responded to the tumult of this era by changing into a beacon of civilization. In addition to broadcasting musical performances and information packages, WNYC introduced discussions and readings of poetry from native and worldwide authors. As the Municipal Archives ingests this assortment, each digitally and bodily, we invite our patrons to make use of National Poetry Month to discover our WNYC Radio assortment already obtainable on-line.


Walt Whitman is a widely known New York poet. Born in West Hills, Long Island in 1819, Whitman is legendary for elevating the significance of on a regular basis American life through the nineteenth century. His affect on American literature has been so huge that he’s generally referred to easily as ‘America’s Poet.’ Whitman labored on his most well-known assortment of poems ‘Leaves of Grass’ till his demise in 1892, revising it repeatedly after its first publication in 1855.

In 1941, WNYC Radio held their second American Music Festival, a program meant to spotlight the multicultural and liberal democratic values of the Americas as in comparison with totalitarian and fascist powers. The phrases of Whitman’s poem ‘I Hear America Singing’ from ‘Leaves of Grass’ have been put to music and carried out dwell on air:

I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the various carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each singing his appropriately blithe and sturdy,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes prepared for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s tune, the ploughboy’s on his manner within the morning, or at midday intermission or at sunset,

The scrumptious singing of the mom, or of the younger spouse at work, or of the woman stitching or washing,

Each singing what belongs to her or him and to nobody else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night time the get together of younger fellows, sturdy, pleasant,

Singing with open mouths their sturdy melodious songs.


The title Langston Hughes is sort of synonymous with the Harlem Renaissance of the early Twentieth century. Born in 1901 in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes attended Columbia University earlier than contributing work to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) official journal, The Crisis. His poems like ‘Harlem,’ or the ‘The Weary Blues,’ helped outline poetry for generations of Americans and his works have, in flip, influenced artists ever since. The well-known opening traces of ‘Harlem’ “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” and the play that took its title from these traces, proceed to reverberate over half a century since his demise in 1967. At the tenth American Music Festival, one among his poems ‘A Black Pierrot’ was set to music and carried out dwell:

A Black Pierrot by Langston Hughes

I’m a black pierrot: She didn’t love me,

So I crept away into the night time and the night time was black, too.

I’m a black pierrot: She didn’t love me,

So I wept till the crimson daybreak dripped blood over the japanese hills

and my coronary heart was bleeding, too.

I’m a black pierrot: She didn’t love me,

So with my as soon as homosexual coloured soul shrunken like a balloon with out air,

I went forth within the morning to hunt a brand new brown love.

I went forth within the morning to hunt a brand new brown love.

I went forth within the morning, I went forth within the morning,

I went forth within the morning to hunt a brand new brown love.


Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1899, Vladimir Nabokov was a poet, trainer, and creator who was exiled shortly after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Fleeing ever additional west, Nabokov and his household ultimately got here to America, the place he wrote his most well-known (or notorious) work, ‘Lolita.’  Writing creatively in a number of languages and instructing literature within the United States, Nabokov was additionally well known for his poetry like ‘Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos,’ which has been the topic of intense literary evaluation because it was printed in 1962. Nabokov was invited to learn one among his poems and talk about the artwork type of poetry in depth on WNYC Radio in 1958. While the next audio recording has the complete poem learn by Nabokov, the textual content is merely the opening paragraph.

An Evening of Russian Poetry (Opening Paragraph) by Vladimir Nabokov

The topic chosen for tonight’s dialogue
Is in every single place, although typically incomplete:
when their basaltic banks turn into too steep,
most rivers use a type of fast Russian,
and so do youngsters speaking of their sleep.
My little helper on the magic lantern,
insert that slide and let the coloured beam
challenge my title or any such-like phantom
in Slavic characters upon the display screen.
The different manner, the opposite manner. I thanks.


Thousands of audio recordings like these have been preserved and are actually freely accessible on-line, and 1000’s extra will likely be added because the challenge continues. Although extra poetry readings and discussions will be discovered within the WNYC Radio assortment, there are numerous different highlights. An interview with Jackie Robinson on the Apollo 11 ticker-tape parade, a speech by President Eisenhower to the American Legion on the risks of Communism and Eleanor Roosevelt extolling the virtues of New York City are just a few examples of the gems on this assortment. Listen to all of them now on our digital gallery: https://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/RECORDSPHOTOUNITARC~26~26

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