Page last updated at 06:52 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 07:52 UK

US voices added to poetry archive

Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion set up the Poetry Archive three years ago

Recordings of 14 major 20th-Century American poets have been added to the free online audio Poetry Archive.

Classic American poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks and Theodore Roethke have joined British poets like Dylan Thomas and Ted Hughes in the archive.

It was launched in 2005 by UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and recording producer Richard Carrington.

Motion told the BBC that the internet had been "incredibly important" in bringing poetry to its audience.

He said: "To hear the speed at which a poet reads, to hear their accent, to hear how they inflect their voice, to hear how they create a space around their words - or don't - all add to our using of what the meaning of poem might be."


The Poetry Archive is accessed by 125,000 unique visitors every month who view more than one million pages.

A total of 61 new recordings will be added to the archive on Tuesday after a transatlantic collaboration between the Poetry Archive and the Poetry Foundation in Chicago.

When completed, the project will consist of over 100 American poets reading their own work.

Motion told the BBC: "To have this partnership with the Poetry Foundation is really wonderful because at a stroke - over three years - it introduces 100 new voices and does a lot to remedy the unfamiliarity that presently exists about what's happening in our two cultures.

"It contains, or will contain, a very interesting range of historic and contemporary poets.

"Some of the names are very well known, like Robert Frost, and some of them will be very less well known to a British audience but they are going to have a very good time when they get to hear them."

Vietnam War

American voices to be added include former US Poet Laureates Ted Kooser and Robert Pinsky, and Pulitzer Prize-winners Yusef Komunyakaa and Philip Levine.

Motion said his particular highlights included Komunyaaka reading his poem Facing It, which contemplates the tally of people killed in the Vietnam War.

"He is hardly known at all over here, but the poems he wrote about the Vietnam War are absolutely brilliantly good, so to have this example easily available now is a benefit to all of us.

Emily Warn, editor of, said: "Andrew Motion was one of the first to recognise that the internet is allowing millions of people to experience poetry in its oldest form - as an oral art form.

"Adding recordings of great American poets to the Poetry Archive makes it an even more comprehensive resource for people interested in listening to poetry."

Laureate bemoans 'thankless' job
10 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Motion bids to save manuscripts
02 Jul 07 |  Entertainment
Poem archive adds historic voices
30 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
Motion cheers online poem archive
14 Dec 05 |  Technology
Classic poets' voices go online
30 Nov 05 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific