Where Poets Speak their Hearts: The Joshua Tree Tour 2019

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2019-12-29)

Initially Published: November 11, 2019 Last Updated: December 29, 2019

“Where poets speak their heart, then bleed for it…”

U2 has been using poetry on the screens on The Joshua Tree Tour 2019 before and after the opening act. The words scroll in white on the large screens over on the right side of the stage. The poems vary from short to long. A number of the poems are written about America, by American poets. These speak about the country with visuals of the landscapes of America. A number of poems from local poets are also featured each night as the tour winds through the different cities. The poems were first introduced on the 2017 tour, and indeed, some of these poems were seen again in 2019. As the tour wound through New Zealand, Australia and Asia, we tracked the poems appearing on screen to the best of our ability. Each poem listed below has been confirmed in person to appear on the screen, by sources at each show, in many cases our own team. We are sure that we have missed some poems along the way, and in some cases we only know the name of the poets, and not the name of the poem itself. But here’s a list of some of what was featured on this tour in 2019:

The poems we identified in shows on this leg that were also used during the 2017 tour are as follows:

  • “Let America Be America Again” – Langston Hughes
  • “I, Too” – Langston Hughes
  • “Puerto Rican Obituary” – Pedro Pietri
  • “Powwow at the End of the World” – Sherman Alexie
  • “America Politica Historia” – Gregory Corso
  • “Praise Song for the Day” – Elizabeth Alexander
  • “Preliminary Sketches: Philadelphia” – Elizabeth Alexander
  • “America I.” – Kate Hoyle
  • “America II. – From the Attic, Looking out the window” – Kate Hoyle
  • “America III. – South” – Kate Hoyle
  • “America IV.” – Kate Hoyle
  • “America V. – Heart” – Kate Hoyle
  • “The World is a Beautiful Place” – Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • “One Today” – Richard Blanco
  • “Learning to Love America” – Shirley Geok-Lin Lim
  • “The Strength of Fields” – James L. Dickey
  • “Prairie” – Carl Sandburg
  • “Kindness” – Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “United” – Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “Facing It” – Yusef Komunyakaa
  • “Let There Be New Flowering” – Lucille Clinton
  • “Wingfoot Lake” – Rita Dove
  • “Ghazal for White Hen Pantry” – Jamila Woods
  • “Leaves of Grass” – Walt Whitman

New poems were also identified, that had not appeared in 2017, including the following:

In Auckland:

  • “Piha Beach, Winter” – Heidi North
  • “One World” – Briar Wood
  • “Ahakoa he iti he pounamu” – Louise Wallace
  • “Into the First Cold” – Albert Wendt

In Australia:

  • “The Invention of Pigs” – Les Murray
  • “My Country” – Dorothea Mackellar
  • An unknown poem by Judith Wright

In Singapore:

  • An unknown poem by Ho Poh Fun

In Japan:

  • “River of Stars” – Akiko Yosano (mis-spelled the first night as Akako)
  • “I Wonder Why” – Michio Mado
  • “Autumn Moonlight” – Matsuo Basho
  • “Why All the Time” – Michio Mado
  • “Be Not Defeated by the Rain” – Kenji Miyazawa

In Korea:

  • “Cold” – Kim Hye-soon
  • “I Remember” – Choi Seung-ja
  • “Mount Jiri” – Lee Si-young

In The Philippines:

  • “Kundiman” – José Rizal
  • “Directions to My Imaginary Childhood” – Nick Carbó
  • “The Opposite of Nostalgia” – Eric Gamalinda
  • “Driving to Katoomba” – Merlinda Bobis
  • “Filipineza” – Bino Realuyo
  • “Letters Book Two: October 27, 1994” – Bienvendo N. Santos
  • An unknown poem by Jessica Hagedorn

In India:

  • “In the Forest” – Sarojini Naidu

In most cases the poems identified as new in each city are by local writers, or those with ties to the country. In Auckland for instance, all four poems identified were written by writers who live there. In some cases, writers from those countries but who live elsewhere were used as well. The living poets were made aware that their poems would be featured on the screen, and were compensated for their use.

A couple of the poets tweeted about seeing their poetry on the screen itself.

Louise Wallace, writer of “Ahakoa he iti he pounamu | Although it is small it is greenstone” posted the following:

Heidi North, writer of “Piha Beach, Winter” posted the following:

As mentioned above, we do not expect that this is a full list of poems and poetry that appeared on the screen. If you have any additional information about poems that you saw or took photos of during your own show, we’d love to hear for you and would happily add to the lists above. (As we do not read fluently in Japanese and Korean, we’ve relied on translation for some of the above information, and apologize for any errors this may have introduced.)

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