Maya Angelou backstage at the 92Y.
At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Now, 92Y and The Paris Review are making recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. You can consider them the deleted scenes to the printed interviews, or the director’s cuts, or the radio adaptations, or—let’s not dwell on it …
The latest editions to the collection are three poets: Maya Angelou, Denise Levertov, and Gary Snyder.
In this recording from 1988, Maya Angelou, who died this past May, speaks to our founding editor, George Plimpton:
I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool—and I’m not any of those—to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.
Denise Levertov died in 1997—Kenneth Rexroth called her “the most subtly skillful poet of her generation, the most profound, the most modest, the most moving.” Here she speaks to Deborah Digges in 1991:
Where I live in Seattle, I see a good deal more—more sky, more trees. I can see the lake. And from one upstairs window I can see a bit of Mount Rainier—when it’s out … Who would want a mountain that was out all the time? You’d stop seeing it. It’s wonderful when it comes and goes.
And Gary Snyder, “the poet laureate of deep ecology,” talks to Eliot Weinberger circa 1992:
There’s no question that spending time with your own consciousness is instructive. You learn a lot. You can just watch what goes on in your own mind, and some of the beneficial effects are you get bored with some of your own tapes and quit playing them back to yourself.
We owe these recordings to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, who worked in the art department at The Paris Review and volunteered as an archivist at 92Y’s Poetry Center.