I’ve always found poetry most vivacious when read aloud. While there’s nothing like attending a live reading, I’ve found a host of fantastic Itunes podcasts that let me listen to poetry whenever—in the morning, before bedtime, on the subway, or while cooking dinner.
My favorite one of these podcasts is The Poetry Foundation’s “Essential American Poets.” Compiled by U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall, each features a brief introduction to the life and work of a poet, followed by recordings of them reading their work. Some of the episodes are archival recordings of late poets; Elizabeth Bishop’s features lively recordings done in 1949 and 1974. Many episodes feature established living poets—Yusef Komunyakaa and Linda Gregg’s recordings were done in 2008. I’ve found that the commentary and rare audio footage always make me rethink a familiar poet and give me a rich introduction to formerly unknown ones.
Now that I’ve graduated with my degree in English Literature (and need to temper my withdrawal from reading writers like Milton and Shakespeare every day), I have a feeling that I am going to be listening to a lot more of the “Classic Poetry Aloud.” Its nearly five hundred and fifty episodes focus on a few dozen prolific English language writers from the nineteenth century and earlier. The man who reads the poems has a lovely Scottish accent and will read poems requested by e-mail.
I’m also a big fan of Slate magazine’s poetry podcast. This weekly podcast features both up-and-coming poets reading their work and editors reading poetry by classic writers like Robert Frost. Like the rest of Slate’s content, the poetry is fresh and often culturally relevant.
Rachel Louise Ensign is an intern at Guernica.