Voices & Visions
William Carlos Williams
"No ideas but in things," Williams's aesthetic dictum sought to capture, not analyze. A collage of documentary footage, interviews, animation, and dramatization capture the poet's often visual work and intense life.
This remarkable New Jersey poet-physician established an American kind of poem distinct from European forms. His work demonstrates an innovative use of common objects and experience as topics for poems as well as formal experiments with the cadences of actual American speech.
Hear Williams read “To Elsie” and find a concise Williams biography, a connection to Allen Ginsberg sites, and more at the Academy of American Poets’ site on Williams.
“It is…time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry…,” says Dana Gioia in “Can Poetry Matter?” from The Atlantic Monthly (May 1991). Gioia says that a passage from Williams’s “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” provides a possible starting point for poets to persuade readers that poetry still matters.
1 Elizabeth Bishop
From childhood in Nova Scotia to travels in Brazil, this program illustrates the geographic spirit of Bishop's life and works with scenes from her poems.
2 Hart Crane
Diverse locations and dramatizations of his life illustrate Crane's poetry and his greatest work, "The Bridge."
3 Emily Dickinson
Dramatic scenarios and New England landscapes illuminate the passionate genius of Dickinson, whose poems represent a broad range of imaginative experience.
4 T. S. Eliot
Eliot's life, influence, and poetry from the bold originality of "Prufrock" to the probing, meditative style of "Four Quartets" are explored with photos, archival footage, and discussion with friends, critics, and scholars.
5 Robert Frost
Frost's image as elder statesman is vividly contrasted with his vigorous, poetic exploration of the darker forces of nature and the human condition. Readings and interviews with the poet reveal compelling insights into his work.
6 Langston Hughes
Hughes wrote of the beauty, dignity, and heritage of blacks in America. Interviews, music, and dance performances convey his work and influence, discussed by James Baldwin and biographer Arnold Rampersad.
7 Robert Lowell
Lowell's political passion encompasses much of his greatest poetry. Lowell himself reads from his work. Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Hass, and others discuss his development and style as illustrated by "Lord Weary's Castle" and "Life Studies."
8 Marianne Moore
Funny, formidable, and paradoxical, the poet and her work are analyzed by critics and friends, including Monroe Wheeler, Grace Shulman, and Patricia Willis. Her most memorable poems display her power of observation and moral force.
9 Sylvia Plath
The creative intensity with which Plath confronted her experiences as daughter, wife, mother, and writer is explored in documentary and archival footage intercut with visualizations of her work.
10 Ezra Pound
The most controversial of American poets — artistic catalyst, legendary confidant, and author of brilliant cantos — Ezra Pound and his poetry and role in the modernist movement are explored by friends and critics.
11 Wallace Stevens
Stevens's flamboyant verbal technique and philosophical vision of American life are beautifully illustrated by archival footage.
12 Walt Whitman
Brilliant readings of Whitman's poems demonstrate his American vision and style and vividly convey their poignance and sheer power. Whitman's sources, including Emerson, the King James Bible, opera, and political oratory, are revealed.