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NPR Arts & Life

Stars Indulge In Versification At Poetry Gala

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Academy of American Poets held their 80th anniversary gala this week to mark National Poetry Month, with an all-star cast reading some of their favorite poems. Sir Patrick Stewart brought a voice that sounds almost from on high, to read Edna St. Vincent Millay's "God's World."

(SOUNDBITE OF POEM, "GOD'S WORLD")

PATRICK STEWART: (Reading) Oh, world I cannot hold thee close enough. Thy winds, thy wide grey skies. Thy mists, that roll and rise. Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag and all but cry with colour. That gaunt crag to crush. To lift the lean of that black bluff. World, world, I cannot get thee close enough.

SIMON: Rosie Perez read a Maya Angelou poem that rings with pride, "Still I Rise."

(SOUNDBITE OF POEM, "STILL I RISE")

ROSIE PEREZ: (Reading) Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells pumping in my living room.

SIMON: And Esperanza Spalding, the jazz artist, did a riff on Langston Hughes' poem, "Life is Fine."

(SOUNDBITE OF POEM, "LIFE IS FINE")

ESPERANZA SPALDING: (Singing) I went down to the river, I set down on the bank. I tried to think but couldn't, so I jumped on in and sank. I came up...

SIMON: All of these poems were recorded at a live performance at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, at a gala for the Academy of American Poets.

(SOUNDBITE OF POEM, "LIFE IS FINE")

SPALDING: (Singing) ...But it was cold in that water, oh, Lord it was cold... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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