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Regina Spektor ’01 Featured on Poetry in America

In this public television series, she joins the likes of Bill Clinton, Samantha Power, Bono, and YoYoMa in immersive interpretations of a single American poem.

Regina Spektor ’01 (studio composition) recites the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus from memory in an episode that examines immigration in our current climate through the revered words found inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

The episode, scheduled to air soon (check your local listings), also features activist and founder of the United We Dream Foundation Cristina Jiménez; President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten; financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein; and poet Duy Doan.

Learn more about the Poetry in America television series here.

  • Video Transcription

    Piano music plays.

    Regina Spektor: 

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Host Elisa New:

    That was such a beautiful reading, Regina. In fact it wasn’t a reading; you memorized the poem. This poem is a sonnet, it begins with an eight line octet, and then moves to a six line sestet, which is a fixed, traditional form. What your reading did, was combine a warmth that sounded very contemporary with the elevation and the grandeur of this language, you humanized the poem, but you left the grandeur.

    Regina Spektor:

    You know I come from a culture where poetry was recited constantly throughout life. In the Soviet Union, everybody memorized poems and once you are using your voice, it’s this in-between thing, it’s conversation but it’s also elevated, it just kind of vibrates on a higher level.

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