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The Social Life of Poems

Alan Shapiro and Jonathan Farmer
Amanda Magnus/WUNC
Poets Alan Shapiro (left) and Jonathan Farmer (right) discuss the communal nature of poetry.

Poetry has always been at the center of the friendship between Alan Shapiro and Jonathan Farmer. They met when Farmer took a poetry class from Shapiro at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the early days they often argued about poetry. Today they agree more often but still have a lot to discuss with one another in their regular meetups.

They both just released new books: Shapiro published a new work of poetry called “Against Translation” (University of Chicago Press/2019), and Farmer’s new book “That Peculiar Affirmative: On The Social Life of Poems” (Texas A&M University Press/2019) takes a critical look at poetry.

Host Frank Stasio talk to these two poets about their relationship, their new books and the social act of writing poetry. Shapiro is a poet and a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Farmer is the editor-in-chief and poetry editor of At Length magazine.

The two will be at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, April 2 at 7 p.m.

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Amanda Magnus grew up in Maryland and went to high school in Baltimore. She became interested in radio after an elective course in the NYU journalism department. She got her start at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, but she knew public radio was for her when she interned at WNYC. She later moved to Madison, where she worked at Wisconsin Public Radio for six years. In her time there, she helped create an afternoon drive news magazine show, called Central Time. She also produced several series, including one on Native American life in Wisconsin. She spends her free time running, hiking, and roller skating. She also loves scary movies.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.