This is a home for both poetry lovers and the poetry-curious, that grew out of the Poetry Unbound podcast hosted by poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama, one of many offerings from The On Being Project. This newsletter is a companion to the show. Whether you’ve folded Poetry Unbound into your life from its beginnings, or are joining us for the first time, know you are most welcome. All that’s required is a curiosity towards what you might meet — in the poetry, in others who you’ll meet here, in yourself — and how your life will rise to meet it all in turn.
Join the conversation:
Poetry as a doorway.
Poems can be thought of as doors opening up to the world of the poet — and doors to open up the world of a reader.
A poem is often made up of stanzas, and stanza is the Italian word for room. Many rooms are populated with things: a chair, a window, a mirror, a painting, a broken toy, the remains of a fire, the evidence of love or its opposites, a child’s drawing, a forgotten report card, a scent that reminds you of your grandmother.
A poem can be a room that invites your person and your intelligence, your own memories, associations, fantasies, desires, and pain. They are designed to notice, and observe, to take stock, to reckon, to breathe, to rest, to stir, and work.
The hope is that you will read the poetry you encounter here with the stories of your own life; stepping inside, noticing what you notice.
Poetry as a companion to a life.
Listeners of Poetry Unbound so often write to us, telling us about their stories, and how a poem helped them be present in their days, especially demanding ones. And people keep writing, telling us how a poem helps them feel alive.
A poem becomes something when it lands in your life, when you add the texture of your own world to it. There are poems we turn to during a time of importance: a funeral, a wedding, an anniversary, a card that needed to be written. By folding a poem into a life, a person makes a poem more than it ever was. This newsletter community welcomes you to stand at the doorway to brilliant poems, saying hello, with an invitation to meet poems with stories of your world.
For those who are wondering …
How often will this newsletter come out?
A letter from Pádraig will arrive in you inbox every Sunday, with an invitation to participate in an accompanying conversation through the comment feed for as long as it carries you.
What can I expect from the newsletter?
Poetry! And commentary from Pádraig about how poetry can be a doorway to opening up conversations with yourself, with others, and with the world. Every newsletter will share some poems (including those featured in Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World), some invitations for your own consideration, some events, and recommendations.
Will every comment I write be answered? Who moderates this?
Pádraig, and some others from On Being, will drop into the comments a few times a week to reply, and read. Depending on how many people are interacting, we’ll have a greater or lesser capacity to reply to everyone, but everything will be read. Comments that are derogatory — about others in the forum, or groups of people — will be deleted and reported. If you find yourself disagreeing with something someone’s said, what an invitation into curiosity!
I want to write poetry and get it published. Is this a forum for that?
There are a plentitude of forums that offer collective critique to hone a writer’s craft, and those can be good and helpful and necessary. Our newsletter is not for that. For us, we are interested in a place where we discuss how poetry is in conversation with your life.
Of course any writer will find stuff of interest in this newsletter. We are delighted you're here.
For those who are looking for poetry mentorship, Pádraig really recommends finding a reading group (locally, or online) where poets gather, share their work, offer helpful critique, support, and challenge. These poetry groups are invaluable.
Can I submit a poem?
Every edition of the newsletter will have an invitation to respond to a prompt. For these, absolutely, feel free to reply! We'd love to read your responses, and engage with you.
If you want your poetry to be considered for Poetry Unbound, have your publisher send a galley copy to On Being at our email or physical address (1619 Hennepin Ave / Minneapolis, MN 55403). We can't promise anything, but we get to read almost everything that's sent.
How can I use this in my classroom, and are there any permissions I should consider?
We hear from so many teachers who use Poetry Unbound in the classroom. We are delighted, and we are currently compiling a short teachers’ guide.
If you are using this in your classroom, there are no permissions required. If you are using a poem publicly (on your school’s website, in promotion material, etc.) you’ll need to go to the publisher’s permission portal (just look for permissions on their website) and seek permissions there. Every publisher is different.
When’s the next season of the Poetry Unbound podcast?
We published the final episode of our seventh season on July 28, 2023. You can find all 20 episodes of the season on our website or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll be back with season eight in the winter, with new episodes every Monday and Friday.
How can I support the work of Poetry Unbound?
There are a few ways. If you’re interested in donating to The On Being Project directly, you can do so here.
Or, if it’s easier, you can also become a paid subscriber of this Substack. The money goes to support On Being’s ongoing work, with Substack taking a portion of subscription fees.
How can I be in touch?
You’re welcome to connect via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.