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Call this hotline to listen to a new poem each day for National Poetry Month

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If you need a little poetry in your day, usually you have to open a book or pull it up on a screen. But for National Poetry Month, Oregon's poet laureate has started a hotline. Just call in, and listen to a new poem each day. Deena Prichep reports.

DEENA PRICHEP: Many of us have fond memories of reading and discussing poems in school, and many of us haven't read much poetry since.

BECKY TUCKER: I am someone who wishes I was a poetry person.

PRICHEP: Becky Tucker lives in Portland and loves the idea of poetry but has had trouble finding works that speak to her, and then she heard about Oregon's poetry hotline.

TUCKER: And I was, like, immediately struck. I know that sounds cheesy, but I was just like, this is so cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hello. Thank you for calling Oregon's telephone poetry hotline, where throughout April, National Poetry Month, you can call and listen to a poem being read for you.

PRICHEP: The first poem Tucker heard was Tomatoes by Joyce Sullivan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Reading) I waited so long for love, and suddenly, here it is, standing in the garden, hands full of heirlooms hot from the sun.

TUCKER: And it just resonated with my desire to let my email pile up and just step away from the world and just, you know, grow old for a minute and enjoy growing older.

PRICHEP: The hotline is the brainchild of Anis Mojgani, Oregon's poet laureate. During the pandemic, Mojgani started sunset poetry readings outside of his window. People - at first, masked and distanced, then not - gathered on folding chairs in the street to get a moment of reflection and joy. Photographer Briana Morrison recorded a reading and put it on YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANIS MOJGANI: So many things in this world, I have loved - rising with the sun, sleeping in late, little pancakes, and though they didn't turn around once when she got gone, my wife's shoulders.

(APPLAUSE)

PRICHEP: Mojgani is still doing these readings. But for those who can't make it to Portland, in 2022, he started the hotline.

MOJGANI: Folks seemed very tickled by it, you know? Like, there was just kind of, like, a simple, soft delight.

PRICHEP: Callers can hear the poet Charles Valle on the bittersweetness of life...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHARLES VALLE: (Reading) And the portability of grief is such a wondrous thing, the transit so efficient.

PRICHEP: ...Susan Leslie Moore on nighttime thoughts...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUSAN LESLIE MOORE: (Reading) You can pretend the sound of branches against the window is someone trying to get in. You can breathe and imagine the night breathes with you.

PRICHEP: ...And Mojgani himself on a little lemon tree.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MOJGANI: (Reading) When my hands are far too empty and my tongue is far too sweet, I will think of the quiet poem that was your shape.

PRICHEP: This month, the hotline has already received over 2,000 calls from across the country.

TUCKER: It's something I very much look forward to, listening to it over lunch and just kind of digesting it.

PRICHEP: Becky Tucker sometimes calls back at dinnertime if it's a poem she thinks her kids might like, and she's gotten friends to call in, too.

TUCKER: We all text about it and chat about it and kind of share thoughts, and it's, like, this unexpected gift. And so it just kind of made my group of people feel closer.

PRICHEP: And Tucker says it makes her feel closer to everyone else who's calling in and to herself, which Anis Mojgani says is the point of the hotline.

MOJGANI: What I want for it to offer is just a little quiet room, give a caller the space to kind of, like, hear something from inside themself.

PRICHEP: And to notice the poems that are there for us to find every day. For NPR News, I'm Deena Prichep in Portland, Ore.

SHAPIRO: And if you'd like to hear today's poem, the hotline number is 503-928-7008. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deena Prichep