Feb 20, 2006    #035
Contact: Michelle Hopkins

New Letters on the Air receives grant to create radio series on U.S. poet laureates

New Letters on the Air, the public radio companion to New Letters magazine, has received a $2,500 grant from the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) to create a special series of one-hour shows that will feature interviews, readings and an examination of the role of the U.S. Poet Laureate.

Called Life Distilled: Four Decades of U.S. Poet Laureates, the series will combine the best of three half-hour programs. It will feature 15 interviews and readings by present and past laureates, including Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, and many others. The series will be available for National Poetry Month in April, though it may be scheduled at any time by public radio stations.

New Letters on the Air was chosen because of its long reputation for quality among public radio listeners, its extensive literary archives, and its willingness to embrace new forms of distribution through PRX,” says John Barth, managing director of the PRX. “The fact is, New Letters came up with a smart idea with the poetry series that played to its strengths. The productions will be an asset for stations and listeners for years to come.”

Produced at the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1977, New Letters on the Air is one of public radio’s longest-running literary programs. The extensive archive contains nearly 1,000 interviews and readings by poets, fiction writers, essayists and dramatists.

Already, the series has generated excitement in the poetry community. “Poetry can be something like sheet lightning—sudden illuminations, electricity in the air. New Letters’ poet laureate series is a brilliant way to capture that energy of poetry in American culture,” says Robert Hass, one of the former U.S. poet laureates.

New Letters editor Robert Stewart considers this another success for the organization. “This PRX grant tells us that our literary initiative continues to excite the listening and reading public,” says Stewart, a founding producer of New Letters on the Air. He adds, “The regular radio series and these poet-laureate specials join New Letters magazine and our other programs to promote new writing internationally.” Stewart hopes the series will bring new audiences for both New Letters on the Air and the literary magazine New Letters.

PRX, a two-year-old web-based service for public radio programming, will distribute the program exclusively to radio stations through its web site, The series will be available beginning in March. To hear the series, individuals should contact the program director of their local public radio stations. Licensing options are available through PRX at or (617) 576-5455.

For more information about the series or New Letters on the Air’s regular programming, visit or (816) 235-1159.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences, and urban affairs.


Bookmark and Share