Former Shows & Episodes

Word Patriots

Mark Seinfelt

Word Patriots – Big Hollow Road

Poetry had its beginnings as an oral art form. The sung lyric and the chanted narrative were, perhaps, one of the first forms of public entertainment. Gathered around a communal fire or chieftain’s hearth, audiences found their evening’s recreation in listening to a poet’s verse narrative. The Iliad, it has been estimated, would have taken about 24 hours to recite aloud in its entirety; so the ancient poet who had this epic memorized could provide twelve nights of entertainment for his listeners, presenting one of literature’s first recorded block-busters. As long as poetry retained its public, performative, aspect, there has always been a need for the long performance piece poem. In the early twentieth century, Vachel Lindsay traveled across America on foot, trading his poems for food, and creating performance pieces like “The Congo.” In mid-twentieth century, Allen Ginsberg created a sensation with his Beat performances of “Howl.” The long performance piece is a particularly uncongenial form for print publication, taking up too many pages in a magazine and too few for a book. Still, the performance piece, with all its off-putting length, continued in the chamber form of printed performance pieces for private reading like Hugh MacDiarmid’s “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle,” and W. H. Auden’s “Letter to Lord Byron.” More recently, we find Robinson Jeffers’ “The Love and the Hate” and John Ashbery’s “The Skaters.” This week on Word Patriots, poet and librettist Jason Charnesky joins us to discuss poetry as performance art. Charnesky has recently completed a performance piece entitled “Big Hollow Road” which manages within its half hour performance to touch upon childhood memory, urban legend, plate tectonics, forest science, flying saucers and our current headlines’ most shocking scandal, all filtered through the voice of a sardonic yet almost embarrassingly sensitive narrator. The show ends with a reading of the first half of “Big Hollow Road.” A recording of the entire performance piece, along with the text of the poem, can be found at If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: