A welcome to the Poetry Archive by
Andrew Motion
former U.K. Poet Laureate 1999-2009

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Listening to Poetry

To value the sound of a poem as much as its written meaning may seem like a new thing; in fact, it's as old as the hills. Andrew Motion writes about the enjoyment to be had from listening to poets reading their poems.
Hello and welcome to the Poetry Archive, which is well on its way to becoming the world's largest and best equipped collection of poets reading their own work.

We've set up the Archive for a number of reasons. We've done it to conserve voices that might otherwise be lost. We've done it to demonstrate that the sound of a poem is as important to its existence as whatever the words might mean when we read them on the page. And we've done it to provide a great deal of advice, and I hope entertaining advice, to teachers and students about the meaning and pleasure of poetry in general.

Poetry readings have become increasingly popular over the last generation or so and it is undoubtedly the case that poets' ability to read their own work has improved in quality as that popularity has risen. But, of course, there are many other ways of proving the importance of the Poetry Archive. One is simply to point out that it is absolutely fascinating to hear a poet reading their own work, hearing their accent, hearing their idiom, seeing where they place the emphases and so on. These are bound to occur in different places and in different ways from those we use when we are reading a poem to ourselves on the page - and these differences are not merely interesting, they are actually enlightening.

The great American poet Robert Frost says, "The ear is the best reader," and I hope that example after example of poets that we have on the Poetry Archive will prove this to you while you're listening to them read. And I also hope that as you enjoy hearing them read, you will be led from the poets you already know to others who are as yet new to you and find pleasure there as well.

Happy Listening.

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