Episode 8

Chris Tonelli

Chris Tonelli is a founding editor of the independent poetry press Birds, LLC; co-director of the NC Book Festival; and author of five chapbooks and two full-length collections of poetry, most recently Whatever Stasis (Barrelhouse Books, 2018). He works in the Libraries at NC State and is the co-owner of So & So Books in downtown Raleigh, where he lives with his wife, Allison, and two kids, Miles and Vera.

Other Links:

Read "Wide Bird" and "Pluto" by Chris Tonelli

Bio and links at Birds, LLC

Interview at NaPoWriMo.net

from “A Test of Company” at poets.org

Alan May:

Welcome to “The Beat,” a poetry podcast by Knox County Public Library. Today, you’ll hear two poems read by the poet Chris Tonelli. A review in Publisher’s Weekly described the experience of reading Tonelli’s work as “wading through and wandering in an active mind.” I like Tonelli’s ability to take the everyday images around us and create a new reality, a world in which almost anything can happen. Something about his humor and quick leaps of imagination remind me of Buster Keaton. Here are the poems “Wide Bird” and “Pluto” by Chris Tonelli.

Chris Tonelli:


A robin hops around in the grass

near where I’ve sat down. Holds

his ear to the ground—listening

for worms I assume. What if he hears

the rumbling beneath us, plunges in

his beak, and pulls out the train?


If everything is wrong


then everything

is wrong now.

I was the planet


in a play once;

I will make the best


Alan May:

That was “Wide Bird” and “Pluto” by Chris Tonelli. He was kind enough to record these poems for us at his home in Raleigh, NC. Chris Tonelli is a founding editor of the independent poetry press Birds, LLC; co-director of the North Carolina Book Festival; and author of five chapbooks and two full-length collections of poetry. He works in the Libraries at North Carolina State University and is the co-owner of So & So Books in downtown Raleigh, where he lives with his wife, Allison, and two kids, Miles and Vera. You can find Tonelli’s books, The Trees Around and Whatever Stasis, in our online catalog, or call us at the Reference Desk at Lawson McGhee Library. Also look for links in the show notes. Please join us next time for “The Beat.”

Various voices:

Thank you for listening to and sharing this podcast from Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. Music for this podcast is by Chad Crouch. Find all our podcasts at pods.knoxlib.org, and explore life-changing resources at www.knoxlib.org. That's "knox l-i-b." Go to our "keep in touch" page to sign up for newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make us your essential connection for life-long learning and information.

About the Podcast

Show artwork for The Beat
The Beat
A poetry podcast

About your host

Profile picture for Alan May

Alan May

Alan May works as a librarian at Lawson McGhee Library. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama. In his spare time, he reads and writes poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, The Idaho Review, DIAGRAM, and others. He has published three books of poetry.