Poets Reading Poems
November 16, 2002 11:26 AM   Subscribe

But...But Wallace Stevens Sounds So...English! Here's an extraordinary wealth of poets' voices from The Factory School Digital Audio Archive. Natural curiosity, of course, kicks in with the prosaic question of what your favourite poets sound like. Some are unexpectedly pompous; others are a bit Beverly Hillbillies; a few are steeped in real gravitas. But why does reading a particular poet, in years and years of silence, make one suppose he or she hasn't a living voice like the rest of us? Wallace Stevens and Anne Sexton, for instance, surprised me immensely... [Via wood's lot; requiring Real; a few links broken.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Bertie Brecht swings, baby!
posted by liam at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2002

John Berryman is wonderful and touches on the question of diction. He is one of the few that sounded exactly as I imagined.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2002

Hemingway sounds like a pompous ass. Expectedly.
posted by liam at 11:38 AM on November 16, 2002

Faulkner sounds surprisingly warm. I'll shut up now. Thanks, Miguel.
posted by liam at 11:41 AM on November 16, 2002

Ezra Pound sounds Scottish and screwy; in fact like Alistair Sims playing Ebenezer Scrooge. I'll shut up now too. Thanks, Liam. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2002

My favorite to listen to is our former poet laureate Billy Collins. His web site has a few that you can listen to, but the best, in my opinion (1, 2, 3) are elsewhere. I like them because they're unpretentious and sound like drunken, rambling answering machine messages.

Well damn, there goes my hope for a Billy Collins FPP. Anyway, rad post Miguel, great resource.
posted by Hildago at 12:38 PM on November 16, 2002

Wow, wow, wow, love this link Miguel...thanks. quite an impressive group of selections, and I've only just started listening...it's wonderful to hear Pound, Eliot, Faulkner, and my newly acquired friend Basil Bunting...a special thrill to hear Daddy read by Sylvia Plath - and a few delightful surprises - some of the Gertrude Stein pieces are quite fun to hear...I liked "If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso."

It also sent me hunting for the missing Dylan Thomas.
Thanks, a good find for rainy, raw Saturday afternoon.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:48 PM on November 16, 2002

I was shocked at Frost's eerie similarity to Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2002

I remember once hearing an audio tape of James Joyce reading Ulysses. Completely ruined the book for me.
posted by oissubke at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2002

One of my favorite pieces of vinyl in my collection, long since lost in the mists of time and global nomadery, was a poetry reading by Charles Bukowski (predictably, I know) called "Hostage". As he got progressively drunker, he got more obstreperous, eventually challenging one of the college-age smartasses in the audience to a fistfight.

Great stuff. Can still be found, if you're lucky, on your favorite p2p network.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:02 PM on November 16, 2002

Oh man. When I was 19 and really depressed, I used to sit on my floor and smoke and listen to that very same recording of Anne Sexton reading "Rowing." Isn't her voice incredible? Of course, the more I smoke, the more I sound like her. Nice link, M.C.!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2002

When I teach Victorian poetry, I always like to point my students to this 1890 recording of Lord Tennyson reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade." My students often feel quite distant or even alienated from many of the nineteenth-century authors they're studying, so this gives them a rather eerie sense of connection.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:46 PM on November 16, 2002

An impressive list--although *sniff* some Randall Jarrell would have been nice.

I don't care if I ever hear Maya Angelou read another poem, though...

Walt Whitman was recorded?--wow. That is so cool.

The second one of Whitman's being read by Orson Welles reminds me--from now on, try to auralize my comments as being read aloud by James Earl Jones as Darth Vader or in This Is CNN mode, depending.

I am listening to Auden's In Memory Of W. B. Yeats as I write this--I like this very much!
posted by y2karl at 8:23 PM on November 16, 2002

Haven't had a chance to listen to the link yet (on the road, laptop with crummy speakers), but I distinctly remember my reaction on hearing a recording of T.S. Eliot reading "Prufrock." I thought he read it all wrong and ignored some of the wonderful cadences -- he sounded bored and languid.

Alternatively, has anyone else fed favorite poems into one of those text-to-speech engines? Truly bizarre.
posted by Vidiot at 9:11 PM on November 16, 2002

Nice link, Miguel, as usual. It reminds me of a site I stumbled across a few weeks ago while preparing to give a talk about P. G. Wodehouse, audio author interviews of dozens of writers by this guy in the 80s. Who knew what Douglas Adams (my original search) sounded like, or Dick Francis, Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, Robert B. Parker, Joan Didion, Barry Hannah, Ishmael Reed, Barbara Kingsolver, and a host of others (even that noted author Richard Nixon).

The interviewer isn't terrific -- sounds like the type who follows a written list of questions, no matter what the interviewee says -- but he sure had interesting visitors. These are the complete interviews, usually 30 minutes or so; ironically, the radio broadcast of each author's comments was only two minutes long.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:08 AM on November 17, 2002

"I'm not sure whether I've got the rhythm going", said Elmore Leonard in 1985. Yeah, right.

What liars good writers are. Thanks, lelilo - what a treat!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:51 AM on November 17, 2002

Wow! Fantastic link Miguel... wow!

TS Eliot's reading kills The Wasteland... but... wow!

Not a very salient contribution to the thread, but hey... the link ruled!
posted by armoured-ant at 4:27 AM on November 17, 2002

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