Poets in Performance

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Over the years, Bill Moyers has welcomed some of America’s best poets to share their works and inspiration. Many of those writers have performed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which Bill and his colleagues covered for television specials including Fooling with Words (1999), The Language of Life (1995) and Sounds of Poetry (1999). Below, enjoy a showcase of such poetry from past productions and very recently from Moyers & Company, performed by the poets who dreamed them up, or by other artists who, like Bill, simply adore poetry.

Coleman Barks | Robert Bly | Lucille Clifton | Rita Dove | Martín Espada | Nikki Giovanni | Maxine Hong Kingston | Galway Kinnell | Stanley Kunitz | Kurtis Lamkin | Li-Young Lee | John Lithgow | W. S. Merwin | Naomi Shihab Nye | Sharon Olds | Adrienne Rich | Christian Wiman| Luis Alberto Urrea| Philip Appleman| James Autry| Kyle Dargan| Wendell Berry

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s “I See My Beauty In You”

Watch this full episode from Fooling with Words

Robert Bly reads After Drinking All Night With a Friend, We Go Out in a Boat at Dawn to See Who Can Write the Best Poem

Watch this full episode from Bill Moyers Journal

Lucille Clifton reads “homage to my hips”

Watch this full episode from  Sounds of Poetry

Rita Dove reads “Daystar”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Rita Dove from Moyers & Company

Martín Espada reads “Return”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Martín Espada from Bill Moyers Journal

Nikki Giovanni reads “Bicycles”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Nikki Giovanni from Bill Moyers Journal

Maxine Hong Kingston reads Sandy Scull’s “Sea Salt”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston from Bill Moyers Journal

Galway Kinnell reads “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps”

Watch this full episode from Fooling with Words

Stanley Kunitz reads “Touch Me”

Watch this full episode from Fooling With Words

Kurtis Lamkin  reads “jump mama”

Watch this full episode from Fooling With Words

Li-Young Lee reads “The Gift”

Watch this full episode from The Power of the Word

John Lithgow reads Ogden Nash’s “No Doctors Today, Thank You”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with John Lithgow from Bill Moyers Journal

W. S. Merwin reads “Yesterday”

Watch this full episode from Fooling with Words

Naomi Shihab Nye reads “Arabic Coffee”

Watch this full episode from The Language of Life

Sharon Olds reads “The Clasp”

Watch this full episode from Fooling with Words

Adrienne Rich reads “Prospective Immigrants Please Note”

Watch this full episode from The Language of Life

Christian Wiman reads Five Houses Down” and “Sitting Down to Breakfast Alone

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Christian Wiman from Moyers & Company

Luis Alberto Urrea  reads from “Ghost Sickness”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Luis Alberto Urrea from Moyers & Company

Philip Appleman reads “The Ant”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Philip Appleman from Moyers & Company

James Autry reads “On Firing A Salesman'”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with James Autry from Moyers & Company.

Kyle Dargan reads “Note to the Addict Who Robbed Us on a Landscaping Job”

Watch Bill’s full conversation with Kyle Dargan from Moyers & Company.

Wendell Berry reads “The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer”

Watch a preview of Bill’s full conversation with Wendell Berry from Moyers & Company.


More Poetry!
Watch modern poets in action: Rita Dove’s List of Young Poets to Watch.

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  • LynnAnn Thomas

    Phillip Levine???

  • Bethhay

    I would love to see Mary Oliver along with these other fine poets.

  • Albert I Martin

    Will anybody ever do a History on John Neiharht One of the Best poets America ever had, and yet he is forgotten!

  • tammy vitale

    Lucille Clifton was local to Southern Maryland (she taught at St Mary’s College).  I wrote poetry in a group with her for about 2 years- she had an amazing ear and the ability to pluck stunning beauty out of poetry.  We all miss her!

  • Dadster3

    Please consider including George Bilgere in your poets series.  There is a lightness in his poetry, more like storytelling, often with a quirky twist.

  • Jerry de Gryse

    I’m all for a reading by Patti Ann Rogers… 

  • http://dgreenleaf.wordpress.com/ Deidra Greenleaf Allan

    Thank you thank you thank you. It was so wonderful to hear again some of these voices that are now lost to us. Fooling with Words was one of the first books on poetry I read and it started me on a lifelong journey in the shadow and light of many of the poets featured here. Thank you for sharing this rich treasure, and for collecting this gold to begin with.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DGYJZD4T4FFDRV4ZIEGKM5RRHM Johnnie

     If you see yourself as prosperous, you will be. If
    you see yourself as continually hard up, that is exactly what you will

  • Bessy

    So glad Martin Espada is representing the Latino voice of poetry in the USA


     Is it a crime, to call it a poem if it don’t rhyme?

    You may have something to say, that does not rhyme and that’s ok.

    But to call that a poem just will not do, it makes what you say untrue.

    If you do not rhyme, that’s not a crime.

    But to claim that you do, is just untrue.

    poem: piece written in  rhythm

  • Maricelamalvarez

    What a treat!
    Thank you so much

  • SiouxZ

    I love you, Bill Moyers! You keep us learning, laughing, living, and loving it all!

  • Norm Morford

    Have you ever interviewed Larry McMurtry? As a Texas writer who grew up on a ranch near Witchita Falls, TX, he might be interesting on the topic of guns as well as many other subjects. Thanks for all you do, Bill. Norm Morford normanmorford@yahoo.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/mplcreative Mindy Phillips Lawrence

    Me too! I had the honor of meeting her and hearing her read her work. She was wonderful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Albert-Lopez/1824418031 Albert Lopez

    ..Jumping rope was very cool ..(:

  • chrisa

    Dear Bill, Thank you for continuing to showcase poetry and emphasizing its vitality!

  • Marta Weeks

    Into poetry I slipped this morning, to ease the not feeling so well in my stomach, drank voices reciting from their souls or others.

  • http://www.typewriterpoetry.com/ b r

    Thank you for putting together such a fantastic list. Bookmarked, and will return often.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DonAsTauno Donald A. Hagelberg

    When I saw the title of this series, I though a finger-sandwich. Now I see what is truly offered and my eyes belch with pre-experience surprise. Just as long as I do not get fat with intellectual pride? You decide. You decide.

  • Joan Harris

    I began writing poetry in rhyme and have switched to prose recently. Exposing myself to prose, may help refine my style. I have won local poetry contests and have had some published. Three years ago I sent a poem to President Obama on war and he answered back. Thank you for sharing these quality poets. I will return many times to absorb their skills and hone mine.