Reading a poem is one thing. Having a poem read to you is a completely different experience.
Reading is just one method for enjoying poetry, and listening is in no way second best! In fact, online audio makes poems more accessible. Not only can recorded poetry reach a wider audience, but it can help dedicated readers of poetry when they’re busy. After all, you only need your hands and eyes free for as long as it takes to tap a button on a website.
Listening to poetry is its own unique pleasure, whether you do it on your way to work or school, or in your spare time with a cup of tea. Listening to a poem you’ve read can help you discover new emotional and intellectual sides of it. Hearing a piece of writing through another person’s voice is a completely different experience. And if you read a lot of poetry, or write it yourself, this can be a fun way to change up your routine and stay inspired.
Here are some of our favorite sites for listening to poems!
Poetry Foundation offers an “Audio Poem of the Day,” which you can subscribe to via RSS. Recordings sometimes feature actors, but many are of the poet reading their own work. There are currently over 1,800 podcasts in the archives, and they cover a bunch of material, including some fascinating older recordings of poets who are no longer living.
Here, you’ll find a huge database of poets along with selected poems for each. Some link to a SoundCloud track of the poem being read, either by the author or by someone else.
Major Jackson’s “Thinking of Frost” is an example of a 2019 poem available on the site, but you can go all the way back to the 1600s if you want! For something in between, check out Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck” from 1973 (read by Anne Waldman).
When it comes to translated poems, sound takes on special importance. If you want to enjoy poetry from all over the world, including poems that were originally written in a different language, you’ll have to rely on translations. But this can feel weird, since poetry is such a musical and sound-based form of art. How can you really get a feel for how the original poem goes? Asymptote solves this problem by giving you the original text of a poem alongside the translation, and a recording of the poem in the original language. Cool, huh? Not all of their poems are recorded, but a good number are.
In April’s issue, you can listen to Xiao Shui reading his “Shanghai Stories” in the original Chinese. Then, hear Claudina Domingo’s “Solitudes” in the original Spanish, read by the writer along with her mother and brother.
These sites will give you an endless supply of poems to listen to any time. Enjoy!