In recent years, the Main Library has made a concerted effort to improve its audio poetry collection. A general search for poetry audio books on compact disc and tape brings up scores of items. A selection of personal favorites include:
The last item in the list, pictured above, is an oversized book with three compact discs that includes historic recordings of Tennyson, Browning, Whitman and Yeats up to modern classics such as Frank O’Hara, Etheridge Knight and Sylvia Plath. This is truly an amazing collection of some of the best poetry ever recorded. Also available from the library is the Naxos Streaming Spoken Word audio, which offers a number of audio poetry collections to kick back and listen to.
Besides the library collection, there are a number of excellent free websites of audio poetry worth knowing about. PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania has a stellar collection of readings and lectures by the likes of William Carlos Williams, Amiri Baraka, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, Albert Goldbarth, C. K. Williams, Anne Waldman, Jack Spicer and many, many more.
There is a fine and ever-growing collection of audio called the Listening Booth at poets.org from the American Academy of Poetry. Some select readings can be found by Louise Glück, Jack Gilbert, Terrance Hayes, Margaret Atwood, Lucille Clifton, Gerald Stern, and Billy Collins, with over 300 total and many more promised.
Salon.com has a fairly large archive of audio dating back to 2000, with many of the items being excerpts of the “Voice of the Poet” audio series. There are readings of individual poems by Charles Bukoswski, Henry Rollins, Quincy Troupe, Wanda Coleman and James Merrill among others.
Ubuweb has a boatload of poetry audio, including selections from the legendary Dial-A-Poem Poets and Cocteau, Creeley, cummings and many modern and experimental poets. The Writer’s Almanac Archive has realaudio readings of a poem everyday of the year, from early February 2001 to the present, with archival listings going back to 1993.
The Poetry Foundation, too, has a gazillion poetry-related audios, with six separate podcast programs: Poetry Magazine Podcast, Poetry Off the Shelf, Poem of the Day, Poem Talk, Poetry Reader, and Avant-Garde All the Time. Some of these are relatively new programs, some have deep archives, they are all interesting. Obviously, they are putting to good use that massive $100,000,000 Ruth Lilly bequest they got a few years back.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Library of Congress “Poetry Webcasts” page, which includes the Poet Vision (video) and The Poet and the Poem (audio) series. Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, and Nick Flynn are among the many poets spotlighted in these historic collections.
Obviously, the above is just the tip of the iceberg for poetry audio, in both the library and on the web. Let me leave you with one of my favorite audio performances, captured on video: Robert Hass bringing to life 9 haiku by the gentle haiku master, Issa.
Short, but, oh, so sweet.