Bill Murray Reads Great Poetry by Billy Collins, Cole Porter, and Sarah Manguso

Anyone calling themselves even casual Bill Murray fans — and we here at Open Culture have taken it well beyond casualness — will by now have read a number of articles on how the actor, comedian, and early Saturday Night Live alumnus has reinvented himself in the 21st century. Though he still acts and makes us laugh more than ever in so doing, he picks his projects more carefully, tends to work with creators possessed of particular visions (Wes Anderson comes to mind), and at times apparently lives his life like a form of self-satirizing performance art, popping up now and then in the least expected places amongst the least expected people. Fans of Murray’s from his CaddyshackStripes, and Ghostbusters days certainly wouldn’t expect to see him, for instance, at a poetry reading, much less onstage, much less reading seriously.

And yet here we have three examples, captured live, of Bill Murray’s poetry-reading acumen. Up top, you can watch him read former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins’ “Forgetfulness” at the 16th Annual Poets House Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge. Just above, at the same event, Murray reads “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” by songwriter Cole Porter from the lyrics of Porter’s musical Kiss Me, Kate. Below, at the Poets House Walk dinner, he reads “What We Miss” by Sarah Manguso. We’ll add those three to the list of voices Murray’s performances have done justice — a list that includes such illustrious figures real and imagined as Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, and Drs. Peter Venkman and Hunter S. Thompson.

Related Content:

Bill Murray Reads Wallace Stevens Poems — “The Planet on The Table” and “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts”

Bill Murray Reads Poetry at a Construction Site

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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  • emmett walz says:

    Somewhat unseemly, it seems to me! To arrive for a poetry reading with only one’s former glories (and trust in ones own improvisational skills) to pave the way, and then, still, hope to carry the day. It is clear, poor Bill failed to read, perhaps, even once, this clever piece from Porter, before very clumsily foisting it upon a sympathetic audience, rendered so, by America’s brand of crowd induced, celebrity worship. Just think of how delightful, and “Porteresque” this might have proven in the hands of a more humbly prepared orator. And I adore Bill Murray, in all but a few of his wonderful (and well rehearsed) film offerings. A PROFESSIONAL must bring more than raw talent, and cheerful good will to any attempt at adequate “translation” of the original body of inspirational work from the universally recognized great minds, and hearts of art and science. Bill were better to have appeared as guest on Jimmy Fallon’s venue, and read, perhaps, a ditty from one of his former school chums, or maybe, from his own hand. NOT unrehearsed, Billy Collins, nor, even Cole Porter.

  • Schnitzel says:

    I strongly disagree with you. reconsider you life. NERD!

  • Candace Clements says:

    This poetry walk sounds wonderful! How do I get involved next year ?

  • Trevor Phillips says:

    It’s astounding that you can pull off the accent of pretension in writing.

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