Collection 1950s–1970s


John Giorno’s Dial-A-Poem



John Giorno. Dial-A-Poem. 1968/2012. Recordings of 200 poems by 80 poets, four telephones; original answering machine, telephone, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and microphone; printed and handwritten ephemera, dimensions variable. Acquired through the generosity of the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art in honor of Kynaston McShine. © 2023 John Giorno
  • MoMA, Floor 4, 414

In 1968, at the dawn of a telecommunications revolution, John Giorno began delivering instant poetry through Dial-A-Poem, a free telephone hotline in New York City. Reinforcing that “much poetry is intended to be heard, not merely read,” he invited a cross-disciplinary network of peers to recite their works, which he recorded and played back using industrial-sized answering machines. The result was “a collage of other poets, which becomes a work of art in itself that changes daily.”

Giorno’s vision for a shared, open-access repository of information was groundbreaking in a pre-digital world. Dial-A-Poem was first presented at MoMA in the 1970 exhibition Information, organized by Kynaston McShine. Galvanized by social movements, including opposition to the Vietnam War, Giorno incorporated numerous works by radical poets and political activists. This gallery features notes and documentation that illustrate how he originally arranged the poems, as well as phones containing 200 randomized poems selected by the artist in 2012 from his archive of thousands.

Organized by Erica Papernik, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance, with Danielle Johnson, former Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.

1 work online


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