About us

Poetry doesn't just live in books - it lives in the sound of the words, the voice of the poet. When poets read aloud, they breathe life into the poems. The Poetry Archive is a place where everyone can listen to poetry. The idea for it came from Andrew Motion (Poet Laureate) and Richard Carrington (recording producer). They agreed that there is something special about listening to a poet reading his or her own work, and that it would be good to collect lots of recordings and make them available to people who were interested in hearing them.

Poetry was spoken long before people started to write it down. But until the late 19th century there was no way of recording voices - the technology had not been invented yet. The voices of those earlier poets have been lost forever, so we can't listen to Shakespeare or Wordsworth now, however much we might like to. Even more recently, many poets were never recorded. In other cases, the recordings were not looked after properly, and got lost or damaged. But now things have changed. The Poetry Archive has been set up to make new recordings, copy them onto CDs and put them onto this website so that they can be heard by everyone.

Most of the poets you can see and hear on the website are alive today. Andrew and Richard invited them to come into a recording studio and read a selection of their poems. The Archive also includes some historic recordings by poets who are no longer alive. These are very special too; there's a kind of magic in hearing these voices speaking to us from Victorian and Edwardian times!

More poets are being recorded and added to the Archive all the time so come back soon.