In honor of National Poetry Month, discover the beauty and rhythm of words. The truth-telling behind this creative art form comes straight from the soul and powerfully connects us. Find out how these visionary poets started to write, why they're so passionate about poetry and what you can learn from their processes. Then, it's your turn to give it a try!
Poetry in Person: 25 Years of Conversation with America's Poets
Editor Alexander Neubauer taught a fiction-writing workshop at the New School, in Greenwich Village for five years. It was there that he first attended Pearl London's legendary poetry class, "Works-in-Progress," a class she taught for more than 25 years, inviting America's greatest poets—including Nobel Prize winners and U.S. poets laureate—to share their just-written poems hot off the press, their manuscript drafts, worksheets, even their markings on the backs of envelopes. When London passed away in 2003, her son invited Neubauer to look over her papers, which is when he first saw three cardboard boxes filled with old cassette tapes. They represented a treasury of recordings of the best poets of our generation as they spoke to her class. Highlights of these recordings have become the book Poetry in Person: 25 Years of Conversation with America's Poets. He lives in Cornwall, Connecticut, with his wife and two children. He's written three books, including Nature's Thumbprint and Conversations on Writing Fiction.

Paul Muldoon Photo Courtesy of Peter Cook Paul Muldoon
Born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Paul Muldoon published his first book of poems, New Weather, (1973) when he was just 21 years old. It immediately caught the attention of Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney. In 1995, he was still seven years away from the Pulitzer Prize when he visited Pearl London's class in New York. He brought along with him 13 draft pages of his poem "Cows," from his volume The Annals of Chile. The book catches all of his most recognizable traits: word lists and wordplay, breaks of form, wit, shifting technique and the widest net among all poets for the sounds and catchphrases of other poems, other poets. In London's class, he explains his efforts to show how "shape is made in the world."

Today, Muldoon is widely considered one of the most important poets of our generation. He lives with his wife and two children near Princeton, New Jersey, where he is the chairman of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. In 2007, he was named poetry editor of The New Yorker.
Listen to Muldoon explain his poetry writing process from Poetry in Person. Listen

Lucille Clifton Photo Courtesy of Michael S. Glaser Lucille Clifton
She was a poet whose simple, moral, generous tone made her one of America's most beloved poets. She made a special visit to Pearl London's classroom at the New School in May 1983, when she brought in manuscripts for two poems she'd been writing, "chemotherapy" and "the thirty eighth year." (Clifton rarely used punctuation in her poetry and titles.) During her amazing session with students that day, Clifton spoke with empathy and elegy about her family growing up in near-poverty, her writing at present and the poetic process in general. Clifton was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for two books in the same year (1988)—the first poet ever so honored. She won the National Book Award in 2000. Lucille Clifton passed away in February 2010 at the age of 73.
Listen to Clifton remember her first experiences with poetry from Poetry in Person. Listen

Edward Hirsch Photo Courtesy of Julie Dermansky Edward Hirsch
Edward Hirsch is a poet, teacher, literary critic and tireless advocate for poetry. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award. In 2008, he was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In March 2010, Knopf released The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, which brings together 35 years of Hirsch's poems. He is now the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and lives in New York City.
Why Hirsch was determined to make poetry his life's purpose
Read a poem from his book The Living Fire.

Marie Ponsot Photo Courtesy of Michael Lionstar Marie Ponsot
Read her poem "Late Spring as Usual."

Vera Pavlova Photo Courtesy of Alexsandr Dolgin Vera Pavlova
Read poems from her book If There Is Something to Desire.

Daniel Mendelsohn Photo Courtesy of Knopf Daniel Mendelsohn
Read his poem "Voices."

Brad Leithauser Photo Courtesy of Knopf Brad Leithauser
Read his poem "A Good List."

In honor of National Poetry Month, Knopf will give you a free poem every day!

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Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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