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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