Nobel Laureates, Poets and Other Writers Reading Their Work

[caption id="attachment_1628" align="alignright" width="224"] Seamus Heaney in 1970. Image by SiGarb, CC 3.0, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.[/caption]

Update: As of October 21, 2013 there is video related to this post on our website.

In our age of the Internet and instant gratification, we can pretty much just go to youtube, search for our favorite authors, and be rewarded with a video (of varying quality, granted) of said author reading their work. This is wonderful!

However, before youtube and the Internet people had to actually go to whichever bookstore or library the author was reading at, sit in uncomfortable folding chairs packed too closely into the small floor space, and strain to hear the author’s recitation. Not that author-readings weren’t, and still aren’t, wonderfully intimate gatherings that are rewarding in their own right, but what if you couldn’t make it to the reading? Well, they used to broadcast these readings on TV, so you could enjoy the sound of writers reading their own words from the comfort of your living room.

In the Boston TV News Digital Library, we have many readings by nationally recognized and local writers, preserved on tape or film, and with your help we can choose which ones we’d like to digitize and stream online, so everyone may once again enjoy these readings from their living rooms (or wherever you can get an Internet connection, really).

Here is a sampling of the authors of whom we have footage at readings:

Dennis Brutus was a South African activist and poet, who was arrested and jailed in the cell next to Nelson Mandela. In 2008 the South African Department of Arts and Culture awarded him a Lifetime Honorary Award.

Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet who used to teach at Harvard. In 1995 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Donald Hall is an American poet and writer, as well as a respected academic who has taught at Stanford University, Bennington College, and the University of Michigan. In 2006 he was appointed as the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Derek Walcott is a Saint Lucian poet and playwright, who currently teaches poetry at the University of Essex. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992, and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011.

John Sayles is an American screenwriter, film director, and author. He has written four novels and several collections of short stories and nonfiction.


[caption id="attachment1629" align="alignleft" width="235"]<a href=""><img class="size-medium wp-image-1629" title="Nadine Gordimer" alt="Nadine Gordimer" src="" width="235" height="300" /> Nadine Gordimer in 2010. Image by Bengt Oberger, CC 3.0, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.[/caption]

Martin Espada is a Latino poet, who teaches poetry at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He was appointed the Poet Laureate of the Northampton, MA in 2001, and received the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award in 2008 and the Massachusetts Book Award in 2012.

Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer and political activist. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.

There are several readings from various programs encouraging prisoners to write and share their own poetry.

In 1988 four Vietnam veterans came together to read their poetry reflecting on the war.

AND as a special treat, I found a slightly mysterious record description which read:

Bill Murray, Christopher Reeve, Stockard Channing and other celebrities assemble at Sanders Theater for a poetry reading.  

I didn’t think that all of these celebrities had written poetry of their own, and I wondered why they would all have assembled for a reading, when none of them are known for poetry at all. I finally tracked down an events calendar  for the Poets’ Theatre Productions from 1987-1994, which included an event called “In the Company of Poets: A William Alfred Anthology.” This was an evening of celebrating poetry selected by William Alfred, from his recently release anthology titled “In the Company of Poets,” and read by various celebrities. Read a review of the event from the Harvard Crimson.