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NPR, PBS, WMUK Programs All Subjects of New Poetry Book

“The Liberal Media Made Me Do It” is a collection of poems written about stories and shows on NPR, PBS, and even special programs on WMUK. 

In fact, local poet Elizabeth Kerlikowske wrote haikus on every single program we carry on 102.1 FM. Here’s one she wrote called “Performance Today”: 

Another texter on the road. I want to ramher. Wait! Debussy!

Kalamazoo poets Deborah Gang and Susan Ramsey also have poems in the book as well as 50 other contributors from around the country. There are a few copies of the book at Michigan News Agency and online.

Gang says it’s not surprising that poets get inspired by things they hear on NPR and PBS. For many people public media is just part of their routine, like picking up a morning newspaper.

"All of our social life has way too much of 'I heard this story the other day on NPR...' or 'Did you see that show on PBS?' or 'Was this on WMUK or WUOM?'" says Gang. "And we get sort of embarrassed about it, but then we continue because it's what we do and listen to."

Gang’s poem in the collection is called “The Wiretappers Ball.” It’s in response to several stories she heard on NPR about the e-mail keyword system the Department of Homeland Security was using to help uncover terrorists. 

Gang's poem begins, "Some are obvious. Do not use assassination, Taliban, bomb." 

But as the poem continues, Gang says words like hail, snow, and blizzard are also on the list. 

"Why these are some of your necessary words, everyone's necessary words," Gang explains in the poem. "If you suffer blizzards, you need to talk about them. And if you don't, you need to gloat."

Susan Ramsey created her poem “Tell Me If You’ve Heard This One” after listening to several episodes of A Prairie Home Companion’s yearly joke show.

"I was listening to tapes of it in the car with my kids once, noticing the patterns. That there are jokes about...light bulb jokes. There's always the priest, minister, and a rabbi. And when you start counting them and come up with the usuals of joke, chicken, blond, light bulb, bar, rabbi...To a poet, six things means a sestina, which is a form that uses only those words as the end words for six stanzas and then uses all of them again in the final three lines, but in a particular repeating pattern."

Ramsey says she filled out the whole poem except for the last three lines. But after listening to the most recent joke show, she was inspired by this joke:

"How many moths does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Ramsey repeats. "Only two, but you got to wonder how they got in there."

Each poet seems to take something different from public media. Ramsey says, for her, it’s those little pieces of trivia.

"Radiolab is at least three interesting things each time," says Ramsey. "You know mantis shrimp or color perception or English radio programs of mind reading in 1930 and Pen Gillette sitting there laughing evilly saying, 'I could tell you how they did it, but you'll hate me. You'll hate me because it's not exciting, it's just dirty. You'll hate me.' And I...I could listen to this all day."

For Deborah Gang, it’s about nostalgia and her hunger for more information.

"We all have memories of being read to as a child, but we're now all being read to through these wonderful radio shows," she says. "It's less effort-full than reading yourself or going out and finding things to read. So I think for information junkies, it's just been this wonderful expansion of more stuff to learn about."

Elizabeth Kerlikowske says she enjoys the lack of commercials on public radio. She also likes the kind of people public radio attracts.

"You get intelligent people talking about topics that need more than two seconds to talk about. That's how I feel about it," she says.

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