Rachel Martin

As Kevin Young gets ready to take over as the next director of the National Museum of African American History in January, his thoughts turn to poetry — and how poets make connections for readers.

"I think a poet or the idea of being a poet is a calling, it's a vocation," he tells NPR. "For me, so is thinking and talking about Black culture. Those two things are intimately related."

Young, who has written more than a dozen books of poetry, directs the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.

It can be helpful to focus on the wonder of the natural world when so much of what is happening around us feels out of our control.

Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil's new book aims to help introduce readers to nature's marvels — it's called World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments.

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Russia is at it again trying to influence the 2020 election this time.

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RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: And at this point, Noel and I are going to take over the show for a few minutes because we have both been riveted, obsessed - shall I use that word? - by an...

NOEL KING, BYLINE: Oh, yeah.

Diego Luna wants you to start talking.

The star of Y Tu Mamá También, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Narcos: Mexico and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has a new series that he hopes will compel audiences to do that. It's called Pan y Circo, or "Bread and Circus," out Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

The title is a reference to the poem "Satire X" by Roman poet Juvenal, who wrote in the second century that bread and circuses — food and entertainment — are all that's needed to convince Romans to give up their political freedoms.

"In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism," says Philippine journalist Maria Ressa.

Ressa, who is internationally known and lauded for standing up to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's escalating attacks on the press, tells NPR that circumstances in the Philippines have forced her to evolve as a journalist.

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 prompted educator Jane Elliott to create the now-famous "blue eyes/brown eyes exercise."

As a school teacher in the small town of Riceville, Iowa, Elliott first conducted the anti-racism experiment on her all-white third-grade classroom, the day after the civil rights leader was killed.

Dana Canedy has spent her career working with the written word.

"My son calls me 'word nerd,' because I'm obsessed with words and books," she says. "I've been writing since I was 12 years old. And my mother asked me in high school, 'If you don't become a writer, what's your Plan B?' And I said 'There is no Plan B.'"

Plan A worked.

The presidential election is just a few months away.

Who votes and who doesn't — and why — is a complex question. Kim Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, has written a book she calls "one-stop shopping" to help address this — and to break down voting into small, managable questions and answers.

Former Defense Secretary and CIA chief Robert Gates said Thursday that it was "misguided" and "a bad mistake" to push away peaceful protesters at St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., where they had congregated on June 1 after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

The area was cleared with chemical irritants before President Trump took a photo with the Bible in front of the church.

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After the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Morning Edition asked for your reactions to the killing in the shape of a poem. The 25-year-old black man was shot and killed by two white men while he was out for a jog in February in Glynn County, Ga.

The coronavirus spread rapidly throughout crowded cities in the country. But one rural area has more COVID-19 cases per capita than nearly any other place in the United States: the Navajo Nation.

When Dr. Vivek Murthy was surgeon general of the United States during the Obama administration, he went on a listening tour of America: He wanted to hear firsthand about people's health concerns.

That meant addressing opioid addiction, diabetes and heart disease. And one more thing — something he wasn't really prepared for — the number of Americans suffering from a lack of human connection. Loneliness, he learned, was impacting them not only mentally but also physically.

Earlier this month, NPR issued a poetry challenge: submit lines describing how you've been affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.

NPR's poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander pointed to Nancy Cross Dunham's poem, "What I'm Learning About Grief," and asked that submissions begin with those same words.

The responses were deeply emotional and vividly captured some of the ways you are coping with uncertainty and crisis.

In this time of uncertainty and crisis, poetry can bring positivity, insight and comfort. Morning Edition wants to hear from those whose lives have been affected by COVID-19 — in the form of a poem.

We want to hear your poems on mourning, on resilience, on your hopes and dreams in the midst of the global pandemic. Here is an example posted to our poetry Facebook group by Nancy Cross Dunham:

The Clark Sisters — Jackie, Dorinda, Denise, Twinkie and Karen — were one of the most important gospel groups of the 20th century. The sisters grew up in Detroit and learned to sing from their mother, Mattie Moss Clark, a renowned gospel singer in her own right. With her help, the Clark Sisters went on to win three Grammy awards and become the top-selling female gospel group of all time. Simply put, they changed the sound of modern gospel music.

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Now more than ever we are looking for ways to feel less alone — and poetry can be one way to bring people together.

Last month NPR asked listeners to respond to art with a poem — a style of poetry called ekphrastic. For inspiration, Kwame Alexander, NPR's poet in residence, selected two paintings: Kadir Nelson's Heatwave and Salvador Dali's Young Woman At A Window. Both show women inside looking longingly out into the world.

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It looks like we better get used to social distancing.

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I just constantly felt as if there was nothing I could do to get ahead, or to have anyone take me seriously. - Victoria James

Victoria James discovered the book Wine for Dummies during her bartending days in New York, and she was hooked.

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One trillion dollars.

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Stocks fell deeper into the red this morning as investors tried to grapple with the economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic. Trading was briefly halted just minutes after the opening bell, when the S&P 500 index plunged by seven percent. Last night, President Trump announced new measures to try to contain the virus and shore up the economy.

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New cases of the coronavirus are emerging around the country.

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Updated at 8:50 p.m. ET

In 1979, Jane Whaley and her husband, Sam, started the Word of Faith Fellowship church in North Carolina.

In recent years, the organization has been investigated for alleged abuse of its congregants — and has faced other charges ranging from fraud to human trafficking.

Davenport, Iowa, faced some of the worst flooding in its history last year.

Flooding isn't uncommon to Iowa's third-biggest city. For years, Davenport has resisted efforts to build a flood wall on its banks of the Mississippi River.

But last spring, businesses along the riverfront scrambled to save their spaces when floodwaters breached temporary barriers.

"It didn't get as bad as it could have got," says Dan Bush, a co-owner of multiple bars near the river. "The last big event was in 1993. I don't expect it to be another 25, 27-odd years before it happens again."

With the New Year comes new promises, new goals and new rules. There are the inevitable promises to eat better, go to the gym, be more organized, read more books and save more money.

But some rules are destined to be broken.

At the start of 2020, we asked you to send us couplets of your abandoned New Year's resolutions. We collected more than 500 entries, and Kwame Alexander, NPR's poet-in-residence, combined some of these lines into an epic (and guilt-free) community poem.


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We are just days away from the actual real - I promise you - start of the 2020 presidential election. Monday is the Iowa caucuses, the first step in nominating a Democratic primary candidate.

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