’Toban Listens: Poetry Unbound

Recommended by writers and Irish musicians everywhere

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Poetry Unbound wasn’t the first podcast I listened to, but it certainly was the podcast that inspired a new kind of love in me for the platform. 

I was introduced to it through globally adored Irish musician Hozier, during a Q & A on Instagram during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Between virtual classes and looking for part-time work that was essentially non-existent, I found myself craving connection and longing for creative outlets I used to enjoy, like writing poetry.

I started listening to Poetry Unbound initially to seek out some inspiration, but I found so much more in it. 

Poetry Unbound is a poetry podcast, hosted by Pádraig Ó Tuama and created by The On Being Project, in which the podcast takes listeners through a journey of dissecting and exploring a single poem per episode, with commentary from and about the author as well as personal analysis. 

The show has eight seasons, but listeners could start anywhere in my experience. 

A technique I use is downloading a bunch of random ones and putting them in my shuffle. 

Ó Tuama is such an engaging yet soft-spoken poetry companion that even poems I may have initially thought of as out of my area of interest become engaging through his oration. 

The first episode I tuned into was “Aria Aber — The Only Cab Service of Farmington, Maine,” a poem by Aria Aber about sitting in a taxi with a driver who was in the forces and stationed in Afghanistan, where the passenger is from, and the complex drive the two of them take. 

Ó Tuama recites the poem after relating to it with his own experiences. The way he does this and how he understands poetry could be an episode all on its own. He’s so interesting, and the biggest joy with this podcast is listening to poetry from all sorts of authors with someone who so clearly adores it. 

It never feels like a chore to sit through Ó Tuama, whether it’s reading, relating or sharing the life of the author for that episode. 

Another aspect of the podcast that I love is how the poem is recited twice, the second reading occurring at the end of the episode, leaving listeners one last time to reflect. 

It’s also refreshing to be exposed to poetry by diverse poets from around the world and from different walks of life. 

Poetry Unbound not only introduced me to these new artists but also had me seeking them out. 

I was no longer satisfied with the generic old literary works given to me at school. I wanted something more, something intimate and human.

All in all, that’s what Poetry Unbound provides — intimacy and humanity in its rawest and earnest forms.