“This podcast is literally our last hope,” jokes Rachel Fields, co-producer of “The Versed” poetry podcast, and healthcare magazine editor. “Seriously though, I have always loved poetry, but I think a lot of people find it scary and stodgy and inaccessible.”
“The Versed,” recently featured on The Rumpus’s official Tumblr, the Rumblr, aims to bring poetry to the people.
“We want people to be able to talk about poems in the same way that people talk about movies,” explains Fields. “I have this friend who thinks Prometheus was a good movie. He’s an idiot, but he’ll still talk about it to anyone who will listen. We think poems should be like that too.”
Nora Frazin, Fields’s co-host, says she was listening to the Poetry Foundation’s podcast when she found herself wishing the hosts were “younger,” “sassier” and “more obscene.”
“Then I realized that I am young, sassy, and obscene,” says Frazin, who works at a middle school and aspires to be an English teacher in the near future.
The two Chicago-based friends and poetry-lovers want their podcast to be something people can tune into as they go about their day.
“Poems are a lot less popular than video games,” says Fields, citing her favorite video game podcast, ‘The Indoor Kids.’ “We’re going to turn that around.”
Frazin explains: “Poetry, for some reason, is something that I have found a lot of people hesitant to discuss or express an opinion about.”
“We’re tackling poems that people can read for pleasure,” says Fields.
The producers of “The Versed” believe podcasts are an ideal outlet for things that can be reviewed and discussed. “I like to think of our podcast as your cool, funny English teacher,” Fields explains, “if you met up a few years after high school and he got drunk and started hitting on you.”
One anonymous correspondent wrote in to ask why the “ladies” insisted on sexualizing everything.
“We’re obsessed with sex,” explained Fields on the following podcast, also providing a more serious answer.
Fields and Frazin aren’t afraid to take a relaxed approach to their podcast, which is more like banter among friends at the bar. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself chuckling along, laughing hysterically, nodding frantically or cringing in disgust, ultimately frustrated you can’t simply jump into the consistently lively conversation.
“It is very important to us not to be too rehearsed or edited or academic in our discussions,” explains Frazin.
They also make a policy of being as honest as possible. “We don’t sugarcoat anything and we hate on poems — or, usually, specific lines — that are lazy,” says Frazin. The hosts also aren’t afraid to disagree with one another about taste and interpretation or concede to their own ignorance at times, though Fields says they have yet to find a poem on which they strongly disagree.
Each of the four existing episodes of “The Versed” runs about 25 minutes and features two poems by different contemporary poets — some more contemporary than others — and the hosts’ stream-of-consciousness-style commentary and narrative interjections.
They have discussed poems like Fleur Adcock’s childishly sweet “For A Five-Year-Old” and Sharon Olds’s more carnal “The Pope’s Penis,” as well as their own experiences writing to celebrities, repulsively eating leftovers and playing terribly boring games with children.
On the podcast, Fields and Frazin also respond to feedback from fans, known and anonymous, but prefer when correspondents skip the shyness and identify themselves. After all, they’re not afraid to let it all hang out
Though “The Versed” hasn’t been around too long, Frazin has hopes and goals for its future, including greater participation by way of guest hosts who are opinionated and funny but “relatively unschooled in poetry.” She also hopes to incorporate material by more local and less established poets.
If that’s not enough to convince you to tune in every two weeks, consider Fields’s sales pitch:
“We’ll introduce you to poems that you can refer back to if you want to seduce someone or speak at a funeral or cheer yourself up,” she says.
“Plus, the podcast is short, so you only have to dedicate 20 minutes of your time every two weeks. Imagine if you could get a six-pack by doing three sit ups a year.”
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