Big hoorays for our laureate—“The Slowdown” podcast officially starts today! Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media released a teaser episode with the October announcement of the series, but just minutes ago they released the first weekday episode (featuring Aja Monet’s poem “564 Park Avenue”).
If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the podcast. And look out for the launch of the radio show in January—hopefully on your favorite station.
I remember not so long ago when Graywolf Press Executive Editor Jeff Shotts called to tell me about the idea, which led to many many conversations with Tracy Mumford at Minnesota Public Radio and Stephen Young and Ydalmi Noriega at the Poetry Foundation. Thanks to them all, and to all the staff in our respective offices who worked hard for this day to come (and special thanks to Jeff for his guest blog post).
Of course, my biggest thanks is to Tracy K. Smith! She began her first term with a clear sense of what she wanted to do in the position, and her powerful rural outreach project “American Conversations” (along with the anthology American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time) is the result. When you’re the U.S. Poet Laureate, though, opportunities come your way—and this one is a biggie. It’s also a lot of work. Though Tracy has a producer working on the show with her, she’s choosing all the poems and writing all the episodes herself. Thankfully she has access to a nearby studio—but she has to fit all this into a busy travel schedule. I’m frankly in awe.
Speaking of travel, I was in Southwest Florida when I got an e-mail from Tracy with the first batch of episodes attached. One morning I went out on a long run—and instead of playing my usual mix, I had my own little mini-binge of “The Slowdown.” I’ll never forget the feeling of warmth and sun, a relief from the unseasonal cold I’d left up the Northeast. I’ll probably always associate that feeling with the series, and with Tracy’s brilliant, affecting takes on poems. What a great way to start.