Paul Durcan, Irish poet

In 1991, Paul Durcan joined Studs in the studio. His collection Daddy, Daddy (winner of the Whitbread Poetry Award) had recently come out and his next collection, Crazy About Women, was due out shortly in Ireland.

Studs starts off by asking Durcan about his father, the inspiration for Daddy, Daddy.  Durcan talks about his father’s love of history and remembers hearing his father’s stories as they drove through Ireland together:

Every townland, every hundred yards, it was another world, as remote and romantic as say China.  That’s how it was, and you can’t romanticize that.

Later, they talk about the spelling and meaning of the name Durcan.  Studs brings up the fact that neither he nor Paul Durcan have ever driven a car, referring to Ducan’s poem “Self Portrait, Nude with Steering Wheel.”  Hear them talk about the poem below, and then read it here.

Studs asks Durcan about poetry in Ireland saying, “I suppose the word ‘Irish poet’ almost sounds redundant since the language itself is so lyrical generally.”  Durcan responds by saying

All over the world poetry is born of speech; we’re still all talking to each other, making sounds.  I feel it’s a form of music.  Some people say that modern media therefore is likely to spell the end, but I see that as a misunderstanding, a contradiction.  It seems to me to fundamentally involve the opening out of the oral tradition – radio, television – it gives the possibility of expanding it.

They continue talking about the relationship between music and poetry, and then Durcan remembers a teacher who helped him learn about lyrical writing.  The clip ends with an introduction to his poem “The Virgin and Child” (click on the preview to open the entire poem).

Paul Durcan is still writing.  His latest collection was published in 2012, Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being.


Photo credit: Grace Radkins, “County Kerry, 2005”

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Anais Nin on Compassion and Creativity

Anais NinIn 1972, Studs had Anais Nin into his studio to talk about the fourth installment of her diary and her book of short stories, Under the Glass Bell.  Ms. Nin was born in France in 1903; by the time she sat down with Studs at nearly seventy years old, she had been publishing books for forty years and had lived in Spain, the United States, and France.  She is best known today for her diaries and erotica.



In this first clip, she talks about how dreams and legends influence her writing, and the importance of her diary during her own growing up years.

Later, she speaks about her passion and openness, essential characteristics for a woman who shares her diaries with the world.  She also talks about the joy she finds in her own work

And here, she talks about the connections she sees between creativity and compassion: “compassion takes empathy and empathy takes imagination.”


Her work continues to influence filmmakers, performers, and other writers.


Meet Angela Pieroni, Chicago’s own environmental crusader

This post was written by one our production interns, Adam Miller.

In the late 1960s, Angela Pieroni was fed up with slow government action on air pollution. She became a Democratic precinct captain, made countless calls to city officials, and went door-to-door to rally support in her Southwest side community. What she found was apathy from her government and a problem that was not soon to go away. Studs Terkel welcomed Pieroni on his show in 1970 along with Dr. Bertram Carnow to discuss these issues.

Dr. Carnow spent over 30 years studying the effects air pollution has on the body. He brings this insight to the conversation as Pieroni, a passionate activist, tells her story of attempting change from the ground up.

Forty-seven years later, their concerns sound familiar. President Trump has begun the process of rolling back environmental regulations including those concerning clean air and water. As Carnow describes, “A lot of people in politics now have gotten on this thing. Some of them I think are sincere in what they’re trying to do. Others I think are just muddying the waters.”

This political battle has slowed federal change in environmental regulations as Republicans and Democrats in government pass the baton to erase their predecessors’ efforts. But strides to combat climate threats persist. “I think if we start now we have a chance,” says Carnow. “I think if we don’t start now we have no chance.”

Adam Miller is a senior Radio major at Columbia College Chicago, and a production intern for the Studs Terkel Archives at WFMT. He held prior production internships with The Feed Podcast and at WUWM – Milwaukee Public Radio, where he interviewed popular names in indie rock like Angel Olsen and Julien Baker. His passion for music brought him into radio, but a deeper care for quality creative content and news have kept him active in the field.
Photo credit: By Paul Sequeira [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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“We’re all sisters together”: Remembering the 1970 Women’s Strike

This post was written by one of our interns, Rachel Newlin.

On March 8th 2017, women across the world are planning to strike in an effort to create an International Day of Action in honor of International Women’s Day.

High schools and college campuses are closing in anticipation of the strike, unable to continue business without their female employees. This international strike is seen as ‘the beginning of a new international feminist movement’ and has been garnering great media attention across the United States. Women across the country are striking from paid jobs, childcare, housework, among other truths of female existence – and it all feels very familiar. That is because this will be the second Women’s Strike where thousands of women rise up and demand equal treatment and change under the law.

On August 26th 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of women marched across the country for many of the same things.

Second-wave feminist Betty Friedan led the strike, organized by NOW, the National Organization for Women. Friedan was met with a lot of resistance when she first brought up the idea of a strike – older women were scared that the strike wouldn’t turn out and the media would mock, them while younger generations of women were sure that the move wasn’t radical enough. Still, Friedan moved forward with the idea, and across the country, the idea caught on. Studs met with a few of these women in March of 1970, where he parsed complex ideas of oppression and the female experience with them in a fascinating two-part interview.

1970 Women's Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

1970 Women’s Liberation March, Washington, D.C.

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Cultural Connections with James Baldwin and Merce Cunningham

I Am Not Your Negro has opened to major critical acclaim.

It features the writings of James Baldwin, and is an exploration of a book on Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X that Baldwin never completed.  The film’s website describes it as “a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter.”

In 1985, James Baldwin returned to Studs’ studio after a twenty-three year break, but their connection had not waned.  Studs starts off the hour by playing an excerpt of their 1961 conversation, which included a Bessie Smith song, and then asks Baldwin what has changed since that day.  He responds with very thoughtful observations on race, language and identity.

Closer to home, catch “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” at the MCA.

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s retrospective focuses on Cunningham’s many collaborations with his artistic contemporaries, including John Cage.  In 1971, Merce Cunningham and John Cage joined Studs in the studio to talk about their work together.  In the featured clip, they talk about chaos and experimentation in art, and what it means to “accept the mess.”  Merce Cunningham talks about what this means practically, while John Cage speaks more conceptually about Thoreau, forests, and thunderstorms.  This brief conversation makes it easy to see why they were such a synergistic pair.

Baldwin photo credit: By Allan warren – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
EyeSpace photo credit: By Daniel Arsham – Daniel Arsham, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Happy Birthday Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte

Two lights of the entertainment and civil rights worlds are turning 90 this year, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.  Both men used their artistry and their fame to bring awareness to the plight of African-Americans in our country, as well to shine a spotlight on the amazing contributions African-Americans have made to our nation.

In 1959, Sidney Poitier visited Studs in the studio to talk about his new film The Defiant Ones.

In this clip, he tells Studs how he first became interested in acting.  It leads Studs to ask him, “Has the thought of playing a role, a person who is not necessarily Negro, just an actor; he is neither Negro nor white, just a certain character?  Has this thought occurred to you or come into your ken?”

“Oh of course it has,” replies Poitier.  In his response, he describes his hopes for a future we still have not attained.

In one of the earliest interviews we have in the archive, Studs sits down to talk with Harry Belafonte about music.

In this clip, Belafonte talks to Studs about how he perceives his responsibility as an artist: “I am intellectually conscious of the time when it first became evident to me that I had a responsibility as an artist, but my responsibility in relationship to my people, and in relationship to the culture of my people far surpassing anything else.  It was the recognition of this responsibility that I gave my artistic life a direction.”

Later on in the same interview, Studs and Belafonte talk about the role of the church in the African-American community.  Belafonte goes on to talk about Mahalia Jackson, how he believes that she embodies the role of a leader in the community and admires the way she connects spirituals and popular music.  He gives the example of her version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and after talking about the history of the song, Belafonte asks to hear it.  You can hear it below.

We’re proud to have these men’s voices as part of our archive, and wish them both very happy 90th birthdays!


Poitier photo credit:  U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978) – NARA – ARC Identifier:542075 (use and search Actor and Vocalist Harry Belafonte), Avalik omand,
By United States Department of the Interior National Park Service –, Public Domain,

“If Emmett Till lived, he’d have been your age”

In 1975, when Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali about his book The Greatest, Studs said to him, “If Emmett Till  lived, he’d have been you’re age, wouldn’t he?”  Hear Ali’s response here:

It’s likely you’re familiar with what happened to Emmett Till.  Twenty years before Studs interviewed Muhammad Ali, 14-year-old Till was visiting Mississippi from Chicago when he was brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman.  His murderers were acquitted and then confessed publicly.

Earlier this month, Vanity Fair ran a story about author Timothy Tyson‘s new book, The Blood of Emmett Till. In that article, Tyson revealed that the woman who was the alleged whistle-target (Carolyn Bryant Donham) has reneged what she said at the trial for Till’s murder.  The murder, and subsequent trial and acquittal, is credited by many as being the first spark – or last straw – that ignited the Civil Rights movement.


Happy Birthday Saul Alinsky

This coming Monday, January 30, would be Saul Alinsky’s 108th birthday.  Alinsky was a community organizer, perhaps best known here in Chicago for his work against the machine politicians Ed Kelly and Richard J. Daley, and around the country for his book Rules for Radicals (full text here). Studs says the book “show[s] how the anonymous people can find power through organization.”  Alinsky has surged back into political culture recently because of Hillary Clinton’s connections to him; and recently, two members of Bernie Sanders’ campaign have authored Rules for Revolutionaries, an obvious tip of the hat.

Studs and Saul had known one another for decades by the time Saul joined him in the studio in 1962 to talk about Rules for Radicals.  They end up having a conversation that is both philosophical and very practical.  They ask questions that would likely feel very relevant to today’s protesters and march participants:

Who has the right to decide what is best?

Can we prioritize morality over basic human needs?

What happens once power has been achieved and demands have been acceded to?

Hear what “the organizer’s organizer” has to say about it all.

“Equality is for Everybody”

Maryland suffragists picket the White House, 1917.

Working for women’s rights has a long history in our country and has taken many forms,

from the early suffragists in the mid-nineteenth century up through today’s movement to ensure STEM education for young women.  This Saturday, January 21, is the day of the Women’s Marches around the world. 215,000 people have RSVP’d to the Washington, D.C. event on Facebook, and another 1.3 million are expected to attend marches around the world, including over 60,000 here in Chicago[update as of 01/21 11:00 am central: 150K!]. (more…)

Inauguration Countdown

Studs was very interested in politics at all levels, from the grassroots movements in a neighborhood all the way up to the White House.  This is reflected in the archives’ interviews with organizers, city councilmen, and authors and journalists writing about our presidents.  As our nation prepares for our 58th inauguration ceremony for an American president, we’ve looked through the archives to find interviews about previous presidents and campaigns.

The faces of Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

In 1970, he spoke with Doris Kearns Goodwin about her time in the White House with Lyndon Johnson and the resulting book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.  In 1981, author David McCullough spoke to Studs about his book on Theodore Roosevelt, Mornings on Horseback.  Studs spoke to multiple guests about Richard Nixon during his campaigns and terms, including Joe McGinniss, author of the The Selling of the President, 1968; and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about breaking the Watergate story, and their follow-up book, All The President’s Men

Be sure to check back later this week as we gear up for the Women’s March with programs on the ongoing struggle to pass the ERA.

Photo credit: By Dean Franklin – 06.04.03 Mount Rushmore Monument. (Resized by User:ComputerHotline, 20:17, 12. Mai 2007.), CC BY 2.0,
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