The online video series is an extension of an existing live performance series that paired poets and poetry with similarly themed Syracuse Stage plays. The move to presenting the series online is part of Syracuse Stage’s response to the closure of theaters due to Covid-19. The online version will feature poets and actors self-recording and reading poems written about experiences in the theatre.
The poems are like “love letters to the art form we miss so dearly,” said Kyle Bass, Syracuse Stage’s associate artistic director who is curating the series with Martin, an award-winning poet and Syracuse resident. “It’s been very rewarding to engage with some of the country’s best poets who love and write about theatre or live performance in their work,” said Bass.
The series had an informal start several weeks ago when Broadway and film actor Keith Randolph Smith, who in the 1990s appeared in Stage’s production of “Holiday Heart,” read Derrick Wolcott’s “White Egrets, No. 6 (‘for August Wilson’).” The video was distributed through Stage’s online newsletter “StageView” and on social media and is still available on the theatre’s website at https://syracusestage.org/poetryandplay.php.
Upcoming poems will be released on the website twice monthly on Mondays beginning today. Readings scheduled for release include Gregerson’s “Ex Machina,” Hadas' “At the Tempest,” Yezzi’s “Exit Pursued” and Bennet’s “In Defense of Henry Box Brown.”
Bass and Martin conceived the idea for the series while discussing plans to compile and edit an anthology of poetry and prose about theatre. The pair recently collaborated when Syracuse Stage presented an online reading of Martin’s new translation of Euripides' tragedy “Medea” as part of the Cold Read Festival of New Plays. Bass said that in addition to celebrating the theatre, he hopes the series will remind viewers of the performative aspects of poetry reading and that they will enjoy poetry’s capacity to soothe and to bring comfort.
“However long viewers are engaged in a poem, hearing it read, whether it be thirty seconds, a minute, two seconds, or three,” Bass said, “I hope they will not have regretted that time that they will never get back, that they feel that it was worth it.”
A new entry in “Poetry & Play” will be online at syracusestage.org every other Monday starting October 5.
Charles Martin is a poet, critic and translator whose many awards and accolades include a Pushcart Prize, the Bess Hokin Award, the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Merrill Ingram Foundation. He was poet in residence at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City from 2005–2009, and has taught in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, at Queensborough Community College, Syracuse University, in the Stonecoast low-residency M.F.A. at the University of Southern Maine and at the School of Letters of the University of the South. He has also taught workshops at the Sewanee Writers Conference and the West Chester Poetry Conference.
Rachel Hadas is the author of numerous books of poetry, essays and translations. Her latest collection is “Poems for Camilla” (2018); “Love and Dread,” a new volume of poetry, is due out in the fall of 2020, and “Piece by Piece,” prose selections, in the spring of 2021. The recipient of honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Director’s Fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the New York Public Library, Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she has taught for many years.