VIDEO: Bill Murray reads with poets at Poets House Bridgewalk

Good poems have the power to disturb one’s complacency, says Bill Murray.

“They’re shocking. They shock people.”

The actor and comedian joined the poets Galway Kinnell, Terrance Hayes, Thomas Lux, and Eileen Myles for the 16th Annual Poets House Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge last Monday. (videos below)

The walk is the largest annual fundraiser for Poets House, the nation’s largest poetry library. Participants walked across the bridge at sundown, and the poets gave readings at stops along the way. The event culminated with a dinner at Bubby’s Brooklyn, where the poets read again, joined by Murray.

“He’s never ever not been here, except for one year when it was impossible,” said Poets House Vice President Frank Platt. That year, Murray was instead filmed reading poems for an audience of construction workers as the new Poets House was being built.

Murray read three pieces: Sarah Manguso’s “What We Miss,” Cole Porter’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” and Billy Collins’s “Forgetfulness.” (videos below)

Poets House Executive Director Lee Briccetti described the Brooklyn Bridge as “a place of mutuality and service,” noting that onlookers frequently stopped and listened to the readings.

There were special moments, she said, like when Kinnell read Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” on the bridge, and a nearby ferry nearly drowned out part of the poem. Whitman first published the poem in 1856; the bridge was completed in 1883.

Myles, Hayes, and Lux also read poems on the bridge, and again at the dinner portion of the event. Murray had two black eyes for the reading, the result of makeup left on after an afternoon of filming Wes Anderson’s new film Moonrise Kingdom.

“It was pointed out to me by my son that I was scaring the straight people in the room – you know who you are – because I was have two full black eyes which I was given in a scene I was doing today and I forgot to take them off before I came,” he said. “This didn’t happen underneath the bridge, so I want you to know it is all safe to walk across.”

After Murray’s reading, Kinnell closed out the evening by reading the conclusion to Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

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Billy Murray “What We Miss” by Sarah Manguso

Bill Murray reads “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” by Cole Porter

Bill Murray reads “Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins

Terrance Hayes reads “New York Poem”

Eileen Myles reads “Mitten”

Galway Kinnell reads the end of Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Set Lists

Bridgewalk

Eileen Myles:

“February,” James Schuyler
“Healing the World From Battery Park,” Tim Dlugos

Terrance Hayes:

“Brooklyn Bridge,” Vladimir Mayakovsky
“Harlem Sweeties,” Langston Hughes

Thomas Lux:

“Greenwich Village of My Dreams,” Tuli Kupferberg
“Granite and Steel,” Marianne Moore

Galway Kinnell

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Walt Whitman

Dinner Portion

Terrance Hayes:

“New York Poem”

Eileen Myles:

“Mitten”

Thomas Lux:

Bill Murray:

“What We Miss,” Sarah Manguso
Frank Platt reads a poem at Murray’s request
“Brush Up,” Cole Porter
“Forgetfulness,” Billy Collins

Galway Kinnell:

end of “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman

 

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