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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