El Cerrito Poet Named NPR "NewsPoet"

Tess Taylor of El Cerrito was picked as this month's NewsPoet for NPR's "All Things Considered." She spent the day in the newsroom seeing how the show is put together and composed a poem at day's end on the experience.

This week, El Cerrito poet Tess Taylor found herself whisked to Washington, D.C., and plopped into the newsroom of the National Public Radio program "All Things Considered."

She had been selected as NPR's "NewsPoet" for August, a role that put her in the newsroom for a day and at day's end had her make a poem out of the news.

Patch asked about her experience.

"I was tremendously honored to be invited to DC by NPR and had a great time visiting Washington – went for a run by the White House that morning and felt what a neat thing it was to be in quasi-earshot of the government, even at the moment of its back to school doldrums," she replied in an email.

"At the radio station everything moved fast – the board filling and emptying as stories got selected or shifted or scheduled for another day. Buzz and adrenaline everywhere: It was a tremendous rush to be in a real-time newsroom with impending deadline, feeling the urgency of the day unfold.

"One thing that was funny was that at about 3 p.m. they asked me for the poem so they could fact check it; and I had to change certain words if they didn't feel journalistically accurate. For instance,  I had written that the former brothel across the street in the poem was becoming a 'medical college.' But in fact it was becoming a lobbyists building. 'Lobbyists building' is harder to fit into the musical line I had in mind, but oh well. Lobbyists it is."

She was there Monday, and her poem and comments she gave to NPR about her experience can be found on the NPR website.

Taylor, who grew up in El Cerrito, said that composing the poem had been influenced by reading during the previous week Walt Whitman on his experiences in Washington.

"Keeping that lens on the day helped me," she said. "Whitman-in-my-mind established the music."

Other poets chosen as the monthly NewsPoet have included Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Unlike many poets, Taylor is not a stranger to the news business. She earned a masters in journalism from New York University in 2004, two years before her masters in creative writing from Boston University.

Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and a number of literary reviews.

Asked if writing a poem on deadline was a challenge, she said:

"I'm the mother of a 13 month old! So all my poetry is deadline poetry, these days!"


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Catherine Krueger August 24, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Congrats Tess!!! What a honor to have you share our street,
shirley kirsten August 24, 2012 at 06:39 PM
What a terrific honor for you and El Cerrito!! Congrats!


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