Back in the early nineties when I was assisting Susan Carpenter in directing the Antioch Writers Workshop, Susan said one day, “Conrad wants to interview you.”
When I seemed nonplussed, Susan frowned. “And you call yourself a poet! Don’t you listen to Conrad’s Corner on WYSO?”
Chagrined, I confessed I didn’t know Conrad from Adam. She smiled slyly. “Conrad Balliet is a real character. And he loves poetry.”
Arriving at the WYSO studio for our interview, I met a tall, thin, courtly older gentleman in his mid-sixties. Conrad made me feel supremely comfortable during my first time on radio with his warm smile, easy manner and sincere love of poetry. We chatted, I read two or three poems and left with a warm buzz.
My Latest Interview
Subsequent interviews with Conrad during “WYSO Weekend Edition” (at 10:30 on Sunday mornings) have been just as pleasant. My third, and latest, occurred in February of 2012; if you’re interested, here’s the link to the show, during which I shared “These Poems,” “Boots,” “Uncle Frank and the Boy” and “Communion.” (*Simply scroll the toolbar to the interview, which comes at 15 minutes, 22 seconds into the show.)
Patron Saint of Poets
While retired Wittenberg English professor Conrad does read the classics—his favorite is Yeats—he frequently reads the work of local poets like David Lee Garrison, Robert Brimm, Marietta Ball, and Myrna Stone during his daily one-minute shows most weekdays. (Many archived programs are available on the WYSO Web site at www.wyso.org.)
Now 84, when Conrad reads, you can imagine the fire roaring in the grate behind him and smell the leather-spined volumes on the mahogany bookcase behind him. He frequently cries after reading a poem that particularly moves him. For a great article on Conrad’s unusual interest and unusual life, see http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/entertainment/ohio-theater-arts/conrad-balliet-not-only-reads-poetry-on-wyso-he-lives-poetry-1233912.html.
Lately he’s begun encouraging poets to come to the studio and record themselves reading their original works for air-play later. (Either Conrad himself or someone at the studio tutors poets in the use of studio technology.)
Every year during April, Conrad hosts a reading by local poets at the Dayton Public Library. Having attended, I can tell you it’s a lot of fun, you’ll hear lots of good stuff and meet really cool people. The time is shared very democratically among poets who sign up to read for two to three minutes each during the two-hour event. If you’ve never been, you must go at least once—it’s a real Miami Valley grass-roots poetry event!—either to read or listen.
And Here’s to WYSO . . .
And I must thank WYSO, 91.3 from the bottom of my poet’s heart for giving Conrad the opportunity to share his passion. These days poetry is a hard sell for lots of reasons (*see “How Poetry Can Matter,” an excellent discussion of this issue by Jordan Mills Pleasant in the March 27-April 2 edition of the Dayton City Paper: http://www.daytoncitypaper.com/how-poetry-can-matter/). But the station continues to support the noblest of the verbal arts, despite changes in management and programming. Tune in at 91.3 on any weekday evening at 7:59 for “Conrad’s Corner” or Sunday morning at 10:30 for “WYSO Weekend Edition.” I think you’ll be glad you did.
As Conrad always says, “Thanks for listening.”
Photograph of Conrad Balliet from www.wittenburg.edu; used with permission.