Celebrate National Poetry Month with us

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John Ashbery, Derek Walcott and more

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Cynthia Ozick on W. H. Auden

“Auden’s politics is metaphysics, his metaphysics is history, his history is humanity adrift in a labyrinth of its own making. In his heroic abundance he will catch hold of any form—or invent a new one—to assess, judge, condemn, praise, ruminate, fulminate, love; and once, in the name of literature, forgive:


Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,


Worships language and forgives

Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honors at their feet.


Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.”


Ozick’s essay, part of 75 at 75, a special project for the Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, is accompanied by audio of Auden reading at 92Y in 1955.

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Michael Ondaatje
Celebrate National Poetry Month with us 

The Unterberg Poetry Center kicks off National Poetry Month with readings by John Ashbery and Mark Ford on Thu, Apr 3.


“The language that we hear in dreams is very important to me,” writes Ashbery. “I wake up with these words that have just been spoken, and they somehow have a meaning beyond what is possible, even beyond expression. So what is that? It’s almost like the meaning of music. It’s a sort of super meaning that I don’t know much about except that it constantly attracts me and makes me want to include it in my poems.”

Nobel laureate Derek Walcott reads collected work on Wed, Apr 9. “I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer,” he says. “I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation.”


James Shapiro visits the Poetry Center on Thu, Apr 24, to mark the occasion of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and discuss the rich story of how Americans have made Shakespeare their own.


On Mon, Apr 28Michael Ondaatje carries on a long-standing Poetry Center tradition, curating readings by three of his favorite poets: Dionne BrandPura López-Colomé and Jan Zwicky.

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