UMN graduate creates poetry-focused podcast

A University graduate and his brother launched a poetry podcast featuring Minnesota artists and change-makers reading their favorite poems.

Kayla Song

Last year, brothers Brendan and Andy Stermer had a vision to get people from all walks of life interested in poetry through a podcast.

Now, the brothers have officially launched “Interesting People Reading Poetry” from the safety of their bedrooms.

The podcast features Minnesota artists and change-makers from a variety of backgrounds who read their favorite pieces of poetry and explain why the pieces resonate with them. 

Brendan Stermer, a University of Minnesota philosophy alumnus, and Andy Stermer, a jazz composer who graduated from the University of Miami, developed the podcast’s concept last year and released it to the public in August. 

The point of the podcast is to simply enjoy people’s favorite poems, Brendan Stermer said, rather than analyzing them.

“[We’re] less interested in the academic analysis that you’d get in an English class and more interested in how poetry can be relevant to our daily lives as people, no matter what profession you are,” Brendan Stermer said.

He added that inspiration for the podcast came after he transferred from the University of Minnesota-Morris to the Twin Cities campus for his last semester.

While at Morris, Brendan Stermer worked the campus radio show called “Motown Poetry Hour,” a podcast that infused poetry and hip-hop music tracks.

Producers from the Minneapolis-based podcast “On Being” offered guidance, and a $10,000 Artist Initiative grant the brothers received from the Minnesota State Arts Board helped the two start their project.

Brendan Stermer’s experience and Andy Stermer’s love of jazz also contributed to the podcast’s creation.

“I’ve always wanted to do music for podcasts, and so I thought, ‘What better way than to start our own podcast?’” said Andy Stermer, who composes music for the background of each episode.

The brothers pride themselves in producing a distinct podcast with diverse guests, an interactive Haiku Hotline at the end of each show and a 10- to 15-minute duration of each episode, Andy Stermer said.

“One week we’ll have a politician, the next week it’s a comedian, the next week it’s a scientist,” Brendan Stermer said. “I find it exciting to see how all those different types of people have been influenced by poetry in their lives.”

The Haiku Hotline concludes the podcast and allows listeners to submit their own pieces of poetry, usually in the form of a haiku, that pertain to the theme of the episode. 

Their most recent guest, entomologist and University of Minnesota bee researcher Marla Spivak, read “When Grapes Turn to Wine” by Jalalu’l-Din Rumi, and the Haiku Hotline consisted of bee-related poems.

They get submissions for their Haiku Hotline from people all around the world.

“Last week we had [submissions] from Slovakia, Portland, Oregon and St. Paul,” Brendan Stermer said. “That’s been fun watching the audience grow every week and just getting these random poetry texts from all these different people.”

Since their launch in August, between 150 and 200 people consistently listen to their podcast each week, Andy Stermer said. 

The two hope their audience will increase as the podcast features more well-known Minnesota figures, Brendan Stermer said. 

Their first guest was Ilhan Omar, who recited “Conversations About Home (at the Deportation Centre)” by Warsan Shire. 

Later in the first month of their launch, author of the Teen Titans and Green Arrow DC Comics series, Benjamin Percy, read his favorite poem called “At the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center,” by Iraq War veteran Brian Turner. 

“No matter who you are or what you do, even if you think you don’t like poetry or have never read a poem before in your life, we still think you might enjoy the show,” Brendan Stermer said.