Listening to Poetry Online

shakespearenew2.jpgToday, we have a guest feature from Don from Classic Poetry Aloud (iTunesFeedWeb Site), which offers a great lineup of poetry podcasts. They have just kicked off a week dedicated to war poetry, which includes pieces by Shakespeare, Coleridge and Melville, among others. Below, Don offers a very helpful survey of the poetry podcast landscape and helps us see why podcasting might be the perfect medium for sparking a renaissance in poetry. Take it away Don…

Short, intense and often emotional pieces of writing penned for the human ear: poems could have been invented for podcasts. It’s no surprise, then, that poetry reading podcasts have sprung up like daisies this year.

Most are the aural equivalent of blogs, telling the intimate stories of the poet, and often about as interesting. Some, though, are dedicated to reading others’ poetry, and they are worth visiting for a regular, short piece of writing that will almost always stimulate thought and feeling – and if it doesn’t, well, you’ve probably only wasted the few minutes it takes to read a poem.

Classic Poetry Aloud (Tunes Feed Web Site)), my own podcast, is dedicated to anything in the English language which is over 70 years old. Experimentally, this week (Nov 4 – 11) is War Poetry Week, featuring poems from Samuel Coleridge and Herman Melville as well as Wilfred Owen and Shakespeare. It’s an attempt to take listeners on a week-long journey from the first rumours of war (on Monday 5th) through to remembering the dead (on Sunday 11th, Remembrance day in the UK).

Most poetry podcasts don’t deal exclusively with the past, however. On the excellent Poetry Off the Shelf (iTunesFeedWeb Site), from the Poetry Foundation, you’ll find the smooth-toned Curtis Fox interviewing contemporary poets about their works, and having them read and interpret a poem or two. It’s wonderfully produced and Fox’s intelligent, self-deprecating style puts both this guests and his listeners at ease. Other podcasts, such as MiPOradio (iTunes – Feed – Web Site), follow the same interview/reading format.

Cloudy Day Art (iTunesFeedWeb Site) similarly involves interviews, most recently with former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, but with a different focus. A home-produced show by Washington DC resident Will Brown, the aim is to draw out of those he interviews thoughts, tips and advice for those who, like the ever-enthusiastic Will himself, are writing poetry, for publication or just for themselves.

One podcast focuses purely on Shakespeare’s sonnets, and is read by a man describing himself as “some guy from New York” (iTunesFeedWeb Site). The shtick on this podcast is that the reader was ordered to read the sonnets as some form of community service or face the prospect of prison. I’m not sure I quite believe this – the interpretations are too good, and the attitude too laid-on. None of this detracts from what is, though, an entertaining and intelligent listening experience.

For pure simplicity, and no attitude, I subscribe to Clarica’s Poetry Moment (iTunesFeedWeb Site), which gives me what I want: a clear female voice reading a wide range of poetry, with no fuss, just a sense of pleasure in the meaning and the sound of the words.

In this reaction, I am a regular poetry podcast listener: all comments I’ve read on my own, and other sites show reaction to all this spoken poetry to be overwhelmingly positive, and sometimes deeply emotional. People love to hear the poem come off the page, whether they are a receptionist in Holland, studying for their English Literature exams at high school in Scotland, or learning English in the Far East. It’s wonderful to sense the world being brought together through the medium of the poetry podcast. Sometimes it almost seems that technology has enabled the oral tradition to be reborn.

For more poems and novels, please visit our Audiobook Podcast Collection and if you want to guest blog, get in touch.

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  • I agree, but the “feel” of the kindle screen is sooo much better… My husband has an Ipad and I get tired reading in it after 1/2 hour. I can go on reading the my kindle for hours. All its missing is a better nav system.

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