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Poetry Archive (!)

A wholehearted recommendation for various reasons: Poetry Archive.

This wonderful website contains recordings of around one hundred contemporary poets reading their poetry. There usually are a handful of poems for each poet, so there must be ca. 500 poems at the Poetry Archive. You get a streamed recording and can also read along while listening. The Archive provides a short biography for each poet as well.

The “About Us” section begins with this explanation of the site’s origin:

The Poetry Archive exists to help make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience. It came into being as a result of a meeting, in a recording studio, between Andrew Motion, soon after he became U.K. Poet Laureate in 1999, and the recording producer, Richard Carrington. They agreed about how enjoyable and illuminating it is to hear poets reading their work and about how regrettable it was that, even in the recent past, many important poets had not been properly recorded.

If there should remain any doubts about the trustworthiness of the site, look at the name of its president: Seamus Heaney.
When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1995, he held his Nobel lecture on 7 Dec 1995, “Crediting Poetry”. Of course it its worth reading in full, but I’ll quote the last couple of sentences because I find them very, well, poetic, and they contain impressive metaphors for what poetry can do:

Poetic form is both the ship and the anchor. It is at once a buoyancy and a steadying, allowing for the simultaneous gratification of whatever is centrifugal and whatever is centripetal in mind and body. And it is by such means that Yeats’s work does what the necessary poetry always does, which is to touch the base of our sympathetic nature while taking in at the same time the unsympathetic nature of the world to which that nature is constantly exposed. The form of the poem, in other words, is crucial to poetry’s power to do the thing which always is and always will be to poetry’s credit: the power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it, the power to remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values, that our very solitudes and distresses are creditable, in so far as they, too, are an earnest of our veritable human being.

At the Poetry Archive you can listen to Seamus Heaney, as he reads his poem “The Underground”, for instance; Sylvia Plath with “The Applicant”; or U A Fanthorpe’s “Earthed”.
Some of the poets speak a few introductory words to prepare the audience for what is to come. What I find particularly moving is the by now rather old recording of W.B. Yeats introducing and reading (or rather, chanting) his “Lake Isle of Innisfree”. Magic.
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A final piece of advice: I’d recommend clicking on “read” next to the poem’s title right away, because at the top of the page containing the text you can start the audio clip, but if you click on the title of the poem first and then decide you’d also like to read the text, the audio stream is stopped and you have to start from the beginning.

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