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Poetry Moment: Paula Bohince and 'Where Radio Fails'

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Where Radio Fails” by Paula Bohince.

Paula Bohince was born and raised and now lives in Western Pennsylvania. She is the author of three collections of poetry, including Swallows and Waves. “Where Radio Fails” comes from Bohince’s first book, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods. In support of her poems, Bohince has received numerous fellowships, residencies, and awards. Most recently, she was the 2020 John Montague International Poetry Fellow at University College Cork in Ireland.

Bohince’s poems ask us to slow down and look closely at the natural world. “Where Radio Fails” begins with the poet’s own attention, first to four baby foxes she comes across. From there, her gaze and the poem widen to take in the surrounding landscape, marked by time of day and season. Bohince’s exquisite image-making is a form of devotion, akin to prayer. As with many poets we might call ‘spiritual,’ Bohince evokes the physical world as a way to access what is hidden in the ‘underbrush.’ Drawing upon her native Pennsylvania, “Where Radio Fails” illuminates what is beyond our range of hearing and seeing.


Where Radio Fails

In static, four kit foxes turn their alert faces
toward the underbrush where they flicker,
orange as candlelight.

Only their light is insufficient,
smeared by the gauzy ruin of October rain.

Weird cables of the sycamore rattle.

And if the interference of finches on those self-same branches
sends no comfort, no wonder:
those mutants, half-born and flustered,
have no plan for winter.

Meanwhile, the snow geese are flying.
Legs folded, black straps tucked under, they are
winners, bodies clearly superior.

Still, there is a decided purity in the fox heads.

Ears tented; even in wetness
the foxes, slender and seemingly boneless, wash
every inch, each flaming hair
a lit filament.

That was “Where Radio Fails” by Paula Bohince.

And with Poetry Moment on WPSU, I’m Shara McCallum. Thanks for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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