Founded in 1999

The Poetry Archive came into being as a result of a meeting, in a recording studio, between the then U.K. Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, and the recording producer, Richard Carrington. They agreed about how enjoyable and illuminating it is to hear poets reading their work and about how regrettable it was that, even in the recent past, many important poets had not been properly recorded.

Founding Philosophy

Poetry was an oral art form before it became textual. Homer's work lived through the spoken word long before any markings were made on a page. What would we not give to be able to hear Keats and Byron reading their work? And, if recording had been possible in the early nineteenth century, how inexplicable it would seem now if no-one had recorded their voices. Yet in the twentieth century, when recording technology became universal, there was no systematic attempt to record all significant poets for posterity and even some major poets - Thomas Hardy and A. E. Housman (as far as we know. Please tell us if you have a recording of Hardy or Housman reading his poetry!), for example - died without having been recorded at all. The Poetry Archive was, therefore, created to make sure that such omissions never happen again and that everyone has a chance to hear major poets reading their work.

Launched in 2005

The first version of The Poetry Archive’s website was launched in 2005. The first ever recording made for the Archive's website was a reading by the much-loved English poet, U.A. Fanthorpe. That recording took place in the poet's house in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire, U.K.

After a decade

Having now been running for over a decade, The Poetry Archive website has grown into a much-loved resource of truly international significance, welcoming over 1.7 million visitors yearly, and featuring recordings of poems by over 500 poets.



Find out more about The Poetry Archive:

About Us

Meet the Team





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

The Lady of Shalott

Alfred Tennyson

read by Andrew Motion

The God Abandons Antony

C. P. Cavafy

read by Jean Sprackland

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.