Marsalis, Gyllenhaal read poetry at NYC benefit

Wynton Marsalis didn't bring his trumpet to the podium during Wednesday night's poetry benefit at Lincoln Center. But he did hum a few bars as he half-sang, half-recited Sterling A. Brown's "Riverbank Blues." Marsalis was one of 10 performers at the seventh annual "Poetry & the Creative Mind," presented by the Academy of American Poets as a kickoff to National Poetry Month and as a demonstration of how words in rhythm can bring together some otherwise unlikely company. Among those on stage, sharing the spotlight with a floral arrangement worthy of a Triple Crown horse race, were a musician (Marsalis), a singer (Joan Baez), a composer (Steve Reich), an actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a scientist (Harold Varmus) and even some poets (Rose Styron, Mark Strand and Jorie Graham). Readers were asked to stick to American poets, dead ones, but the rule was ignored by Varmus, who chose John Donne and other British writers; by Gyllenhaal, who selected the Russian Anna Akhmatova and most defiantly by Baez, who acknowledged that knowing nothing about reading poetry hadn't stopped her from writing it.