Her most recent title is Poetry Speaks Expanded, a revised edition of the 2001 bestseller she co-edited with Elise Paschen. She was nominated for a Grammy as producer/editor of the 4CD box set, Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work (1888-2006). She also edited the groundbreaking Rhino Records poetry box sets, In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry (1996) and Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers: Black Poets Read Their Work (2000).
Mosby stumbled into her current profession at age thirty. Born and raised in Fresno, California, her degrees are in Dramatic Literature (A.B., University of California–Berkeley) and playwriting (M.A., University of Missouri–Kansas City) and her early aspiration was to be an actress. While taking a graduate writing class from poet David Ray, she volunteered to help out with the public radio program he founded. Within two weeks, she was co-producing New Letters on the Air with Judy Ray and learning about radio and poetry while on the job.
As Rebekah Presson, she hosted the weekly syndicated program, from 1983 to 1995 (as sole host after 1984), and interviewed more than 350 poets and writers, including seven Nobel Laureates and many Pulitzer Prize winners. Dozens of her interviews have been published in magazines and books. While producing and hosting New Letters on the Air, she also worked for Kansas City’s NPR affiliate, KCUR-FM as a news host and arts reporter. At the same time, she filed about 140 art news stories and documentaries for NPR network shows including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Crossroads, Art Beat and Horizons.
For In Their Own Voices, she drew from poetry archives from all over the country, including the Library of Congress, many university collections and New Letters on the Air to create an anthology incorporating the voices of 80 poets ranging from Walt Whitman, who was recorded in 1888, to Li-Young Lee. She, Erica Jong and Al Young wrote essays for a book that accompanies the collection. Previously published audio poetry anthologies draw from a single source (the “best of” Caedmon, Scholastic Records, etc.). Voices was a surprise hit, drawing rave reviews from such diverse sources as Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and the Academy of American Poets website.
In Our Souls Have Grown Deep like the Rivers: Black Poets Read Their Work, Mosby again drew from various sources to paint an audio portrait of the history of black, mostly American, poetry. The two CD collection includes voices ranging from W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Margaret Walker to Yusef Komunakaa and Public Enemy. She and Al Young wrote essays to accompany the audio. Our Souls won the national Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association.
Poetry Speaks Expanded features 47 “historical” (dead) poets reading their work on three CDs tucked inside a coffee table book that features chapters on each author, beginning with Alfred, Lord Tennyson and ending with Sylvia Plath. The CDs are narrated by Charles Osgood, who reads a script written by Mosby. Poetry Speaks was on The New York Times extended bestseller list. All of Mosby’s first three audio poetry collections received Earphones awards from Audiofile magazine.
In April, 2006, Shout! Factory published the four CD box set, Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work (1888-2006) to strong critical praise. Mosby was been nominated for a Grammy award as producer of this collection in the category of “Best Historical Collection.”
Mosby’s other projects include teaching radio writing at Colgate University and producing a Living History for Colgate by interviewing forty individuals with ties to the college, and selecting work for the poetry room at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Dallas. For several years, she worked as a volunteer editor/director/producer of the audio edition of Veterans Voices magazine, a magazine written by hospitalized veterans. Her NPR documentary on the veterans, “Healing the Wounds of War with Words” won first prize for Public Affairs from the President’s Committee on People with Disabilities.
At present, Rebekah Presson Mosby is working on a book about the Bloomsbury group. She has been married to art historian Dewey F. Mosby since 1996.
Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.