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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Poetry Archive: Hear Them Speak!

Do you remember studying Emily Dickinson and trying to figure out just how it is her poems are supposed to be read? If ever you figured it out, please let me know. Every time I've tried to work out her cadence it's been as if I'm trying on any number of beautiful shoes that either don't match, are on the wrong feet, or are the wrong size altogether. And apparently I'm not the only one who's a little challenged in this way.

In 2005, Andrew Motion, Britain's Poet Laureate, created The Poetry Archive, an online collection of poetry from artists as diverse as Robert Browning and Langston Hughes. But here's the kicker—in addition to providing a text version of their poems, users have access to recordings of the poems being spoken by the author. Understandably, it's ever increasing in its popularity. The archive has already gotten over 125,000 unique hits. Motion and his team have also recently recruited 14 American poets to record a total of 61 of their poems in an effort to open up their archives to an American tradition of poetry that is mostly unknown in Britain. Kay Ryan, Gwendolyn Brooks, Yusef Komunyakaa, and even William Carlos Williams are among the new additions to the archive.

Now if only we could discover the recordings Dickinson so wisely left beneath her floorboards...

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