About us

What is The Poetry Archive?

The Poetry Archive is a not-for-profit organisation that makes and acquires recordings of poets from around the English-speaking world and makes substantial excerpts from them freely available online.

We are funded by Arts Council England, as well as a number of charitable trusts and foundations, philanthropic individuals and generous supporters.


Why are we needed?

A project for posterity
When a poet dies without making a recording, a precious resource is lost for ever and as time goes by that loss is felt more and more keenly. By recording poets reading their own work, The Poetry Archive preserves for future generations uniquely valuable voices which might otherwise be lost.

The Poetry Archive aims to protect an important part of our social history, and it is for this reason that we have been designated as ‘a vital heritage resource’ by the British Library.

Insight, understanding, enjoyment
Hearing a poet reading his or her work remains uniquely illuminating. It helps us to understand the work as well as helping us to enjoy it. Writers have a particular right to their own work and we are taken to a deeper level of understanding by hearing how they speak it. To students of poetry and to all lovers of literature, such a reading is a powerful source of insight, understanding and enjoyment.

Accessible and available to all
We have a fundamental belief that poetry should be accessible to everyone. The website currently features over 2,000 poems you can listen to without charge, with examples of the best of every kind of English-language poetry. New recordings are added all the time. Every year we are proud to make our collection freely available to over 1.7 million visitors from all over the world.

Supporting poets
While we want poetry to remain freely accessible for as wide an audience as possible, we also believe that writers should be fairly compensated for their work. We pay each poet to record for us and, when copyright permissions allow, we promote their full recordings for sale via our download store (and previously via CDs) giving two thirds of the returns directly back to poets as royalties. 


What we do

When funding makes it possible, we invite poets into a recording studio to record around an hour of poetry. We make an excerpt from each recording freely available on the website with the rest available via our download store (or on CD for older recordings). Through partnerships with other organisations, the Archive is also able to include other recordings of poets who we haven't recorded ourselves.

For information on how a poet is selected to feature in the Archive, please visit our Poet Selection page.

We also created The Children’s Poetry Archive, a website dedicated to showcasing the best of children’s poetry. We are hoping to redevelop this website in time so that it can become as valuable and varied for children as the main Archive is for adult poetry.

In 2013, we co-founded with The Full English Poetry By Heart, a national competition funded by the Department for Education, designed to encourage 14-18-year-old students at school and college in England to enjoy learning and reciting poetry. From 2013-2016 Poetry By Heart has been the Archive’s principal educational initiative.


Find out more about The Poetry Archive:


Meet the Team





Enjoy new recordings of classic poems from the past read by contemporary poets

Epistle to Cobham from...

Alexander Pope

read by John Fuller

When I am Dead, my...

Christina Rossetti

read by Helen Dunmore

The Poetry Archive’s vision is to acquire and make recordings of contemporary English-language poets reading their own work, collect and preserve recordings of great poets from the past, and make extracts from all these recordings available free of charge.