Celebrating National Poetry Month with The Current and Teenage Kicks

Teenage Kicks
Teenage Kicks (MPR Graphic)

April is National Poetry Month, and there are a number of ways you can celebrate (see the list of events, below, and add your own if I've missed one.)

One way: tune in to Teenage Kicks the morning of April 6, 2013. It'll be a mishmash (or in poet-speak, a collage) of fun stuff in honor of National Poetry Month. I'll feature music by artists who are published and/or performance poets, songs about poets, and songs inspired by poems (all from the Teenage Kicks era of the late '70's to the early '90's.)

Plus, I've asked staff of The Current to share their picks for songs whose lyrics are so good, they could stand alone on the page (see some of their picks, and mine, below.) Join the conversation - what would your picks be for songs with amazing lyrics?

Host Song Picks:

"Beyond Belief," Elvis Costello and the Attractions

I was just a kid when Elvis Costello released Imperial Bedroom in 1982, and remember walking into the record store greeted by posters that said "Masterpiece?" While I was already hip to the frenetic new wave of his earlier records, it took me a minute to warm to the more sophisticated and complex arrangements and often dense or oblique lyrics on Imperial Bedroom. But a few listens spent pouring over the lyric sheet and suddenly my mind was opened to the wider possibilities of language, expressed so well on tracks like "Man Out of Time," "The Loved Ones," and "Beyond Belief." Thirty years on the answer to the question posed by the record label in those adverts remains an emphatic "Yes!"

- Jim McGuinn, Program Director, The Current

"Driver 8" and "E-Bow The Letter," by R.E.M.

R.E.M. first hooked me at the tender age of 12, with "Driver 8." I'd just started reading and writing poetry, and the line children look up, all they hear is sky blue bells ringing was pure poetry to me. I was drawn to visuals in songs (and in poetry), and this conjured up a visual I could feel in my bones. I was 22 when the band released "E-Bow the Letter," and it felt like Stipe's poetry had taken center stage on this one (it didn't hurt that he had the high priestess of punk poetry, Patti Smith, helping out on this one.) Lines like fields of poppies, little pearls, all the boys and all the girls, sweet-toothed, each and every one a little scary still have me reaching for my Moleskine notebook to crank out a poem.

- Jacquie Fuller, Host

"Heroes," by David Bowie

Over a decade ago I went on record as saying that David Bowie's "Heroes" was my favorite song of all time. There's a reason why that answer has never changed even as my tastes have broadened and become more refined with age. The structure, instrumentation, vocals and overall vibe is one thing, the lyrics are another. Here is a list of one word answers of why that is: Timeless, optimistic, adventurous, romantic, invincible ... Bowie.

- Jake Rudh, Host, Transmission

"Kimberly," by Patti Smith

Patti Smith's "Kimberly" just rings out mid-70s, but I didn't pick up Horses right at release. The whole song sounds like a memory myth turned to words, but the single line I mutter to myself is straightforward electricity: and I rolled in the grass and I spit out the gas and I lit a match and the void went flash. It click-click-clicks the point right through the song, over the airwaves, and straight to the way a moment can feel.

- Julia Schrenkler, Senior Producer, Digital Audiences, MPR

"Lullaby," by The Cure

There are about 30 different Cure songs that are absolute poetry to me. But one that really stands out is "Lullaby." I mean, when you think of a lullaby, you think of something you would listen to as you were tucked into bed, awaiting slumber. But instead of relaxing; you find yourself transported with a gothic twist, into nightmare. And over there in the corner is a Tim Buton-esque spider just waiting to feast on you, the second you close your eyes!

- Barb Abney, Host

"The Mercy Seat," by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

To me, Nick Cave is the best poet to come out of the punk era, and he's still going strong!
In fact he's also written two novels. One is in my top five books ever - "When The Ass Saw The Angel" -
where he literally invented his own dialect, which made the language sound like poetry throughout the book.

- Mark Wheat, Host

National Poetry Month Events in the Twin Cities:

The Cracked Walnut month-long reading series continues through April 12 at coffee houses in the Twin Cities, featuring both prose writers and poets. Find them on Facebook.

Sub-Text Books in Saint Paul is hosting readings throughout April, including readings from Heid Erdrich, William Stobb, William Waltz, Rachel Moritz, Sun Yung Shin, and others.

Form + Content Galleryin Northeast Minneapolis welcomes Rachel Moritz and Juliet Patterson on Friday April 12th at 7:30 PM. I've taken classes with Patterson and she's killer.

The Loft Literary Center is presenting a number of great events. Here are two I'm excited about, including a literary legend on April 15th, and two energetic, must-see performance poets on April 25:

Monday, April 15th, 7 p.m.
Literary Witnesses Reading Series presents Jane Hirshfield Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis

Friday, April 19 at 7:30pm, Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis features poetry from Peter Gloviczki, Arlene Kim, Maria Damon, and A K Beck.

Saturday, April 27th, 8 p.m.
Equilibrium: Beau Sia and Gyasi Ross
The Loft at Open Book (Performance Hall), Minneapolis

Coffee House Press - one of the Twin Cities oldest independent presses - celebrates its annual BiblioBash fundraiser on April 20. Shameless plug: I'll be deejaying.
Friday, April 26th at 7 p.m., the Rain Taxi Reading Series presents a Five Poets Blowout - featuring Lisa Fishman, Kate Greenstreet, Richard Meier, William Stobb, Brian Teare - at Common Good Books in Saint Paul.

Rain Taxi's Twin Cities Literary Calendar is a great place to keep up on all the bookish stuff happening in the Twin Cities.

Got a Twin Cities (or Rochester, or Mankato) event I missed? How about a song that exemplified poetry to you? Post it in the comments!


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