Vita Readings: Lit from the Basement, the new poetry podcast from poet, Danielle Cadena Deulen, and her husband, Max Stinson, offers entertainment and edification for general readers of poetry and for experts alike. The premise of the weekly podcast, as articulated by Deulen, is as follows:
"We’re a married couple who discuss poetry in our basement while our children are sleeping as a way to reconnect with each other, think about broader world issues, and remember our lives before having children (when we had more than an hour a night to ourselves).
Our format is pretty simple. I’m an author and professor. Max isn’t. I introduce Max to a poem, he asks questions about it, then we use it as a conversational prompt to discuss stories from our lives or issues we care about: love, literature, family, politics, parenting, spirituality, etc. The topics we cover are wide-ranging. Every so often, we have guests on the show who talk about a poem that is personally resonant for them."
Over the course of the first fifteen episodes, which come out once a week on Mondays, Deulen and Stinson (and guests) have discussed poems from poets, including Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Tracy K. Smith, Robert Hayden, Denis Johnson, Lisa Fay Coutley, Shara Lessley, Samiya Bashir, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jennifer Chang, Lindsay Bernal, and Richard Siken. Deulen generally begins the podcast by explaining the reason why a given poem was chosen for discussion; she then offers a close reading, which Stinson nuances by interposing questions from the perspective of a nonpoet.
As with most podcasts, the average episode, which runs about fifty minutes long, contains enough digressions to keep Tristram Shandy happy. These digressions often layer the close reading by introducing personal stories from the podcasters’ lives. The alternation between anecdote and scholarly analysis propels each episode forward with élan and buoyancy. Listening to Deulen and Stinson discuss poetry is a great joy; Deulen’s love for poetry is as contagious as it is deep. Stinson’s smart commentary deflates and demystifies even as it opens a space for Deulen to gather paradise about a given poem. The couple’s love for each other and for their children provides an unusual, but welcome, backdrop for their particular brand of poetry criticism. It is an honor to be welcomed into the home of two such fine people. Spend some time listening to Vita Readings. You will not regret it.
Dante Di Stefano is the author of two poetry collections: Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016) and Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, forthcoming 2019). Along with María Isabel Alvarez, he is the co-editor of Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump's America (NYQ Books, 2018). All proceeds from this anthology go directly to the National Immigration Law Center.