Dial A Poem
Poetry is back. None rang the bell louder than Amanda Gorman – 2021 Inauguration poet, scheduled to perform today at the Super Bowl.
Now, Vancouver is stanza-ready with its latest arts offering: Poetry Phone. In this 2021 initiative launched by the DVBIA, any of us can call 1.833.POEMS. 4. U and choose which poem from which local poet we want to listen to first. Press 1 for Rise, Press 2 for Ode to Chopsticks, Ode to the Potato, and Omelet, Press 3 for And The Dance Most Of all…
This ‘Dial A’ notion might be ringing nostalgic bells for those of us who remember sneaking to the phone as kids to see just what all these much advertised Dial A services were really about. Dial A Dietician, Dial A Song, Dial A Joke, Dial A Horoscope, even the far less interesting Dial The Time.
City of Vancouver Archives. Jack Lindsay. ~1940-48
The Dial A Poem idea isn’t new. In 1968, American poet John Giorno – inspired by the boundary pushing work of friends like Andy Warhol, Trisha Brown, and Robert Rauschenberg – created Dial A Poem.
In a 2012 interview, Giorno explained: “Dial-A-Poem was unique in that it discovered the telephone as a venue of mass communication. On January 12, 1969, we received at quarter page review in The New York Times, which included the telephone number twice. We received millions of calls. The first day we gave off 250,000 busy signals at any one time, and the telephone company threatened to cut us off.”
In fact, if you call the non toll-free number 641.793.8122, you’ll hear one of Giorno’s original roster of poets reading one of their poems. Our call netted a moving poem by poet David Henderson, born 1942 in Harlem.
The Dial A Poem movement spread. In 1985, for instance, poet Fortner Anderson – inspired by Giorno – started Dial A Poem Montreal.
Vancouver’s 2021 Poetry Phone is curated by Renee Sarojini Saklikar – one in the list of ten currently featured poets that also includes: Joanne Arnott, Christine Bissonnette, Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek, Dina del Bucchia, Charles Demers, Jennica Harper, Jónína Kirton, Fiona Tinwei Lam, and Rachel Rose.
Happy couplet dialling!
Header Photo: Johnny Briggs