The Sound of Poetry

This week on From the Vault we travel back in time over fifty years to listen a long-forgotten recording that was broadcast only once (May 24th, 1962) on Pacifica radio station KPFA in Berkeley: The Sound of Poetry, produced by the late cultural and literary critic John Leonard and narrated by John Ohliger. Living under a completely inadequate catalog description, this program was ignored for five decades as it sat protected deep inside the Pacifica vault, until Archives Director Brian DeShazor sat down for a listen…

Here’s what Brian heard:

1. Kenneth Rexroth – “Married Blues”
2. W. B. Yeats – “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (recorded Oct. 4, 1932)
3. Rainer Maria Rilke – “Marie” (performed by KPFA Readers Theater)
4. Dorothy Parker – “Parable for a Certain Virgin”
5. T.S. Elliot – “Preludes”
6. Langston Hughes – “I Had My Clothes Cleaned…”
7. Edith Sitwell – “Where Is All the Bright Company Gone…”
8. William Carlos Williams – “On Spring”
9. Robert Browning – “My Last Duchess” (read by Ed Schell)
10. Josephine Miles – “Hysteric Sparks of Silk”
11. Yvor Winters – “Reptilian Green”
12. Richard Eberhardt in Berkeley – “Throwing the Apple”
13. Louise Bogan – “Medusa”
14. Richard Wilbur – “After the Last Bulletins”
17. Allen Ginsberg – “A Supermarket in California”
18. Theodore Roethke – “The Long Alley”
19. Kenneth Fearing – “Dirge” (dramatized by the KPFA Reader’s Theater)
20. Robert Duncan – “Best of Ways…”
21. Edna St. Millay – “Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies”
22. Franz Kafka – “A Common Confusion” (read by Al Jacobs)

Brian had stumbled upon a truly magnificent treasure, a stunning compilation of some the some of the most important poets of the last century – many in their own voice. He invited producer John Leonard’s son Andrew Leonard to listen to the original recording and introduce this amazing piece of poetic history to our contemporary audience.

Special thanks to Andrew Leonard, staff writer at, who wrote and recorded today’s introduction to this program.

From the Vault is presented through the Pacifica Radio Archives Preservation and Access Project, funded in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, past grants from the Grammy Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the American Archive funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with the generous support of Pacifica Radio Listeners.

PURCHASE a copy of this program or learn more about the historic archival recordings used within this episode. To purchase a CD copy of this program by phone, please call Pacifica Radio Archives at 800.735.0230 x 262.

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