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NewsPoet: Idra Novey Writes The Day In Verse

Nov 9, 2012
Originally published on November 16, 2012 12:17 pm

Today at All Things Considered, we continue a project we're calling NewsPoet. Each month, we bring in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories.

The series has included Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith, as well as Craig Morgan Teicher, Kevin Young, Monica Youn, Carmen Gimenez Smith, former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Paisley Rekdal, Tess Taylor and Philip Schultz.

Today, poet Idra Novey brings us the news in verse. She has lived in Chile, Brazil and currently resides in New York. She is the author of Exit, Civilian, a 2011 National Poetry Series Selection, and The Next Country, a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award. She has translated several books from Spanish and Portuguese, including Clarice Lispector's novel The Passion According to G.H. (New Directions, 2012).

Idra Novey sat down with NPR's Robert Siegel to talk about her day at All Things Considered. She spoke about "how fascinating it was to see the news in the making," and the poem she wrote for today's show.

Novey sat in on the daily meetings for Digital News and All Things Considered, and listened to editors and producers debate the day's news. For Novey, some of the news discussed hit close to home. One of the stories covered gas rationing in New York City, which Brooklyn-based Novey had witnessed on her doorstep that morning. "There was a long line for gas at the gas station near where I live," she said. "It was really strange to have seen something outside my own building, and then come here and see it discussed at the news table."

Novey was also fascinated by Melissa Block's interview with Daniel Day-Lewis, who stars in the upcoming biopic Lincoln. She was inspired by Day-Lewis' research into his role as the 16th president, and decided to include a line from The Gettysburg Address in her piece.

"Daniel Day-Lewis talks about how he was so inspired in terms of figuring out how to take on the character by going back through Lincoln's writings, and as a writer, I think I'm also very much fascinated by going back and reading one's writings," she said.

After Novey wrote her poem, news broke that CIA Director David Petraeus had resigned, citing an extramarital affair. "When you're writing a poem, and all of a sudden something changes, it's just between you and the poem, and you throw it a line," Novey said. "But here when you throw out a story and put another one in, it sort of changes the way the whole country and all of the listeners see the day."

The President Rehired

BY IDRA NOVEY

And the president, rehired, stood upon a fiscal cliff.

And a woman at a hurricane shelter said the waiting.

And then the bus.

And then another bus.

And this great task remaining before us.

And Iran grabbing up gold.

And the trouble with gold.

Of holding onto it.

And the president, rehired, heard what had been Far Rockaway was still a sand bar in the dark.

And this great task remaining before us.

And the president, rehired, heard about the oceans rising faster.

And the trouble with gold.

And this great task remaining.

And the president rehired, and the oceans rising.

Now.

All Things Considered's NewsPoet is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Justine Kenin with production assistance from Sophie Adelman.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And we end this hour with our NewsPoet. This is when we invite a poet into NPR to spend the day with us and then she writes a poem on demand. And today, we've had Idra Novey in-house. Thanks for being here.

IDRA NOVEY: It was a thrilling day.

SIEGEL: How did it go?

NOVEY: Well, it was fascinating to see all the news in the making because I listen to NPR at home, and all these stories wash over you, and you just think how many things are happening in the world and then the country. And then I got to see the selection of how those stories take place and how many choices have to be made even among the many stories that NPR covers in a day.

SIEGEL: And after this incredible process of figuring out what the news is, then something like the Petraeus story breaks, and we toss it all up in the air. And that happened after you had written your poem.

NOVEY: Exactly. And the day's stories changed. And it's interesting when you're writing a poem and all of a sudden something changes it's just between you and the poem, and you throw it a line. But here, when you throw in a story with another one in, it sort of changes the way the whole country and all of the listeners see the day.

SIEGEL: And you came down from home, which is a pretty newsworthy place these days, from Brooklyn. Some of your local news has also been big national news today and for the past couple of weeks.

NOVEY: Absolutely. That was a big factor for me in writing this poem because when I left this morning, there was a long line for gas at the gas station near where I live. And then in the meeting this morning, there was talk about the gas rationing and what's happening with that. And so it was really strange to have seen something outside my own building and then come here and see it being discussed at the news table.

SIEGEL: Now, you also had some fun in your poem, not just the presidential race just concluded but also with Melissa Block's interview with Daniel Day-Lewis who plays Lincoln .in the new film "Lincoln," This impressed you?

NOVEY: I can't wait to see the film. I think he is the most brilliant actor, and I really wanted to do something with it and love listening to the interview. But in the end, I was drawn back to the "Gettysburg Address"...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NOVEY: ...because in the interview Daniel Day-Lewis talks about how he was so inspired in terms of figuring out how to take on the character by going back through Lincoln's writings. And as a writer, I think I'm also very much fascinated by reading one's writings. So I went back online and pulled out his quote.

SIEGEL: Yeah. To put it mildly, a president who had a way with words.

NOVEY: Indeed.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: OK. So all of these things minus Petraeus, which came in too late for your thinking, all of these contributed to your poem, which I'd like you to read for us now and tell us first what it's called.

NOVEY: "The President Rehired." And the president, rehired, stood upon a fiscal cliff. And a woman at a hurricane shelter said the waiting. And then the bus. And then another bus. And this great task remaining before us. And Iran grabbing up gold. And the trouble with gold. Of holding onto it. And the president, rehired, heard what had been Far Rockaway was still a sand bar in the dark. And this great task remaining before us. And the president, rehired, heard about the oceans rising faster. And the trouble with gold. And this great task remaining. And the president rehired, and the oceans rising. Now.

SIEGEL: "The President Rehired," not the most majestic way of putting a national election, but, I guess, it figured in the rhetoric of 2012. Should he be fired or not?

NOVEY: Well, I live in Brooklyn, and it's a crazy time there.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Fair enough. This is Idra Novey we're hearing from, our November NewsPoet. Her latest collection is called "Exit, Civilian," and today's poem was called "The President Rehired." Thanks so much for joining us.

NOVEY: Thanks for having me. It was an amazing day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.