Katie Geha has a pretty great piece right now over at The Poetry Foundation, on the Dial-a-Poem project of the late 60’s. Changed daily, its contributors ranged from the obscure to the celebrated of the New York scene.

Geha writes:

“Contrary to what a lot of people were saying in 1970, in Dial-a-Poem the medium really wasn’t the message. Taken together, these poems act as a type of time capsule of the late 1960s, both personal and political. The poems were not a straightforward account, like calling for the weather report or the time of day. What made them almost ordinary, though, was the very everydayness of the act—dialing the number and listening. Calling a poem on the telephone did not require as much effort as attending a reading or even reading a poem on the page. It was casual. A phone call. The ordinariness of the telephone heightened the impact of the content. Perhaps this is the very fact of information; illumination can’t exist without it.”

Reading about the Dial-a-Poem project got me thinking about the Dial-a-Song project, started by a young They Might Be Giants. In the mid-1980’s, TMBG recorded over 500 songs that would be left on cassette tapes on their answering machine. The number was posted in newspapers around NYC, and even though the call was not toll-free, TMBG advertised it with the disclaimer, “Free when you call from work.”

I called both John Giorno’s Dial-a-Poem and TMBG’s Dial-a-Song this afternoon. Dial-a-Poem’s now a media company, and Dial-a-Song is disconnected. Anyone know any numbers to call for illumination?




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  • Onevoice33

    Today, Feb. 2012 there is a Poem by phone service
    call 585-546-2515 to hear a poem, changed every 3 or 4 days.