Poetry in America Comes to Texas

Filming for Season Four continued this April in and around Austin, Texas. We filmed several Texas natives on Tracy K. Smith’s “Hill Country,” a poem that journeys through the complicated linkage between biblical text and the geography of “Jesus country.” What has been lost in translation (and gained in misprision) between ancient text and modern life?

Host Elisa New holds a camera with crew member Gerard Watson in the background.
Pictured: Host Elisa New and crew member Gerard Watson film the landscape.

First, we interviewed three-time Grammy nominee, and three-year-in-a-row Rolling Stone Country Artist of the Year, Jimmie Dale Gilmore: co-founder of the Flatlanders, prolific solo artist, Amarillo, TX native, and alt-country troubadour. We sat down with Gilmore at his Spicewood home to interpret Tracy K. Smith’s “Hill Country.” Consummate hosts, Jimmie Dale and his wife Janet made the crew vegan breakfast burritos before we started to film. Host Elisa New, not physically present, conducted the interview remotely from Arizona via Zoom.

Jimmy Dale Gilmore wears boots, jeans and a wide-brim hat as he sits on a stool on a porch and reads from the paper in his hands.
Pictured: Jimmie Dale Gilmore

After a break for lunch at The Blue Bonnet Cafe, our crew drove to Travis Co Field Office to film scenic b-roll of the “little hills like lambs,” to illustrate the exaltation and triumph of the poem’s rolling hills.

A rocky landscape with trees, shrubs and a pool of water in Texas.
Pictured: Texas

The Poetry in America for High Schools dual enrollment program has been available to students in San Antonio since Fall 2020: at Fox Tech, Highlands High School, and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy. 

Now, we’re bringing the PBS show to Texas as well. First, through a prime-time run of our third season, Tuesdays at 10:30pm this summer on Austin PBS. And next season, we’ll explore the Lone Star State through Tracy K. Smith’s evocation of the rich landscape, and history, of the edenic green peaks of Hill Country.