Listening to Famous Poets Reading Their Own Work

Today, we have a guest fea­ture by Don from Clas­sic Poet­ry Aloud (iTunesFeedWeb Site), a place where you can find a great line­up of poet­ry pod­casts. We wel­come oth­er guest con­trib­u­tors. So, if you’re inter­est­ed, just email us. Take it away (and thanks) Don…

The inter­net has giv­en poet­ry new scope and a new fresh­ness. It’s almost like the ‘70s, when punk fanzine read­ers were famous­ly told ‘Here are three chords, now form a band’. Today, the injunc­tion could be: ‘Here are three web sites, now per­form some poet­ry’.

And the empha­sis would very much be on per­for­mance, with read­ings tak­ing place on blogs (indi­vid­u­al­ly) and at poet­ry slams (col­lec­tive­ly).

But an inter­est in poet­ry read­ings is not con­fined to new work. My own dai­ly poet­ry pod­cast, Clas­sic Poet­ry Aloud, is ded­i­cat­ed to any­thing in the Eng­lish lan­guage that is out of copy­right, and attracts lis­ten­ers on every con­ti­nent.

While pod­casts such as Clas­sic Poet­ry Aloud (see a Novem­ber Open Cul­ture post­ing for a list­ing of poet­ry pod­casts) fea­ture a range of poets, the inter­net also offers a wealth of record­ings of cel­e­brat­ed authors read­ing from their own work.

The BBC has a won­der­ful series of such record­ings at Poet­ry Out Loud. My favourites include: Men and their Bor­ing Argu­ments by con­tem­po­rary British poet Wendy Cope, and an excerpt from Tennyson’s cel­e­brat­ed Charge of the Light Brigade, orig­i­nal­ly record­ed in 1890 on a wax cylin­der by Edi­son. In addi­tion, the BBC has a series of inter­views with poets dis­cussing their work.

The Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets’ lis­ten­ing booth offers more than 150 orig­i­nal read­ings. As well as the rolling tones of Dylan Thomas read­ing Do not go Gen­tle into that Good Night, there is Robert Frost’s The Road not Tak­en, and Gwen­dolyn Brooks’ We Real Cool – com­plete with an illu­mi­nat­ing, humor­ous, wry intro­duc­tion. This is an unashamed show stop­per read­ing of a poem that runs to just 24 words.

Indeed, one of the joys of lis­ten­ing to poets read­ing from their own work is often the com­ments and insights that they offer. T.S. Eliot does this in intro­duc­ing The Jour­ney of the Magi, one of three of his poems to fea­ture on the Poet­ry Archive. On this site, there are over 200 poems that fea­ture some form of intro­duc­tion by the poet.

The Poet­ry Archive is an ambi­tious project set up by British poet lau­re­ate Andrew Motion to cap­ture poet­ry read­ings. The range here is so vast that it is impos­si­ble to say how many poems are fea­tured on the site, but it makes for an invalu­able resource, with poems acces­si­ble by theme as well as by form.

Among British poets is for­mer lau­re­ate John Bet­je­man, appar­ent­ly unable to remem­ber the title of the poem he is best remem­bered for – A Subaltern’s Love Song – and he jokes with his audi­ence before launch­ing into a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly brisk and warm ren­di­tion. Not all of the Poet­ry Archive comes from the UK, though, and Allen Gins­berg reads three poems, includ­ing A Super­mar­ket in Cal­i­for­nia.

Author Andrew Keen has claimed that the inter­net is ‘killing cul­ture’. That’s a good, allit­er­a­tive tag line to sell books, but the grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of poet­ry on the net shows that it’s also far from the truth.

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • Caran says:

    Thank you so much for tak­ing the time to com­pile won­der­ful col­lec­tion of resources!
    I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing as an intern for a lit­er­ary mag­a­zine, and I will def­i­nite­ly pass these web­sites on to our sub­scribers. Hope­ful­ly they will appre­ci­ate this as much as I did.
    I’m with you on the mis­con­cep­tion that the inter­net is killing cul­ture– through ini­tia­tives like the Poet­ry Archive and the Guten­berg Project, the inter­net has made a vast array of cul­tur­al gems acces­si­ble to the gen­er­al pub­lic, easy to find and free of charge.

  • […] and “To an Old Philoso­pher in Rome.” For more, you should see our pre­vi­ous post, Lis­ten­ing to Famous Poets Read­ing Their Own Work, and then below watch the clip below of ever-pro­lif­ic Yale lit­er­a­ture pro­fes­sor Harold Bloom […]

  • Martha says:

    I have always been inter­est­ed in poet­ry. My favourite is prob­a­bly ‘Snake’ by DH Lawrence. I also like the first world war poets (Owen, Sas­soon, Blake @ co), and I am always amused by Bet­je­man.
    Because there has been quite a bit of pub­lic­i­ty recent­ly about Ted Hugh­es and Sylvia Plath, I intend to buy some­of theirs soon. Also the recent­ly deceased James Kirkup.

  • […] Lis­ten­ing to Famous Poets Read­ing Their Own Work […]

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.