Season Four Production Diary: from NYC’s East Village to Northwest D.C.

Elisa New and guest Clint Smith on set at Planet Word Museum.

Last week, host Elisa New and producer Cathleen O’Connell travelled down the East Coast to film several guests for Poetry in America Season Four! 

Our week kicked off on Monday, July 12th at Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s historically crowded—but currently closed—East Village restaurant, Prune. 

Elisa New sat down with Hamilton to discuss Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” and Kay Ryan’s “Weakness and Doubt.” Then Frank Bruni, The New York Times op-ed columnist (and former NYT restaurant critic), arrived at Prune to film on the same poems. It was likely not his first time there; in 2011, Bruni reviewed Hamilton’s bestselling memoir Blood, Bones and Butter for NYT. His assessment: “Hamilton can write … the restaurant-obsessed [can] feast not only on her deviled eggs, but also on her prose.” And Bruni is not the only one to have been impressed by Hamilton’s writing: in 2014, the late chef Anthony Bourdain referred to Hamilton’s cookbook Prune as “a masterwork … a landmark achievement … a game-changer.” 

The set at Planet Word Museum, before filming began on Tuesday morning. 

After a morning of culinary exploration, we headed to D.C. to film three guests on Robert Lowell’s poem “July in Washington.” On Tuesday, July 13th, guests came out to the recently-reopened Planet Word Museum, located in the historic Franklin School building in Northwest D.C., to film with us. First, we sat down with Senior Time correspondent Justin Worland. Then, our next guest was clinical psychologist and author of the highly acclaimed memoir An Unquiet Mind, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. (Jamison has been dubbed a “Hero of Medicine” by Time). Finally, we wrapped up our long day of filming with political correspondent Bill Kristol—in the late 80s, Kristol served as Chief-of-Staff to Vice President Dan Quayle in the first Bush administration.

Elisa New and guest Bill Kristol on set at Planet Word Museum. 

After a night of much needed rest, our team returned to Planet Word Museum on Wednesday, July 14th for a second day of filming. First, we discussed Lowell’s “July in Washington” with House of Representatives speechwriter Sean Satterthwaite. Then, we sat down with #1 NYT bestselling author of How the Word is Passed, Professor Clint Smith, to discuss poems by Phillis Wheatley. We rounded off our trip with a tour of the books and exhibits of Planet Word Museum.

A crew member films the Schwarzman Family Library at Planet Word Museum

Our trip concluded, Elisa & Cathleen headed back up to Boston to film again next week,  this time at home in our Brighton office.