Poetry Archive logo
The Poetry Archive
Type Charitable trust
Purpose/focus Modern poetry in English read by the author
Official languages English
Founders Andrew Motion and Richard Carrington
President Seamus Heaney
Patrons Billy Collins and Melvyn Bragg
Main organ Board of trustees
Website Poetry Archive

The Poetry Archive is a free, web-based library formed to hold recordings of English language poets reading their own work. The Poetry Archive is a not-for-profit registered charity. [1]


The Poetry Archive was founded by recording producer Richard Carrington and poet Andrew Motion, during Motion's tenure as Poet Laureate of the United KIngdom, in 1999. [2] [3] Recordings of contemporary work began in 2000, and the site went live in 2005.

The archive was established as a web-based library to ensure that the oral record of modern poets is not lost, (as it has been with writers such as Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence and A.E. Housman whose voices were never recorded, despite the technology being available at the time).[1] The resource is built on the idea that poets have a unique relationship with their own work and are often able to communicate the nuance, musicality and subtlety of it, with a deeper understanding than actors.[1] Texts to the poems and other resources are available but the poet's voice is the main concern of the site. [4] Motion has stated "To hear the speed at which a poet reads, to hear their accent, to hear how they inflect their voice, to hear how they create a space around their words - or don't - all add to our using of what the meaning of poem might be." [2] Contemporary studio recordings for the project began in 2000, shortly after Motion was appointed a Poet Laureate, and the site went live in 2005.[5]

In the first year, the site had 500,000 visitors, building to over 1.5 million annual users in 2008, nearly 2 million in 2009 and over 3 million in 2012.[6][7][8]

About Edit

Most of the recordings are created especially for the organisation, although some historic readings are archived. Poets are chosen by a selection panel, chaired by Motion, and works added to the site, every month. CDs of archive works are available. [1]

The archive forms part of the permanent legacy of Motion's time as Poet Laureate. He states that he would never have been able to raise the £2,000,000 needed to launch the library without his position. [9] [7] [8] The project was initially funded by the National Lottery, government grants and private donors in conjunction with work by Jean Sprackland.[10]


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
     Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said.
Into the valley of Death
     Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
     Someone had blundered.
     Theirs not to make reply,
     Theirs not to reason why,
     Theirs but to do and die.
     Into the valley of Death
     Rode the six hundred.

From "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1882),
recorded by Alfred Tennyson in 1890.
Text and audio available the Poetry Archive. [11]

As of April 2013, the readings of over 260 poets are available on the site, with content searchable by title, author, theme, and form. Historic recordings available on the archive include Alfred Tennyson (recorded by Thomas Edison 1890), Robert Browning (1889), Rudyard Kipling (1921) W B Yeats (1932) and Langston Hughes (1955).[12] Contemporary writers include Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Carol Ann Duffy and John Ashbery [2][13][14][12]

The work of New Zealand Allen Curnow was recorded shortly before his death in 2001, one of the first to be archived.

Cornish poet Charles Causley gave a reading aged 86, in the year before he died in 2003. [5] Motion commented:

It's a fantastically powerful recording that was done a matter of days before his death. It doesn't show on the recording, but Richard, who made the recording, said that between each poem Charles broke down and wept, and had to gather himself. He knew that he was dying. He was saying goodbye to each of his poems. If you only listen to one of the poems on the website, listen to "Eden Rock". It's a great poem and he reads it so beautifully and introduces it so touchingly.[15][16]

In 2006 historic readings by Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, and Walter de la Mare were added. [17] That same year, the project worked with the BBC to archive rare readings by Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Philip Larkin.[6] In 2008 over 60 American recordings were archived on the site, in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation, based in Chicago. Readers include Ted Kooser, Robert Pinsky, and Philip Levine. [2] A section of the website is dedicated to a children's archive, with work by poets such as Roald Dahl, Spike Milligan and Michael Rosen.[18] [19]

The archive also includes extensive material for teachers and students, including glossaries, biographies and lesson plans that integrated as a school resource.[7] [20] [21]

In 2012, independent activist Phantom Bill Stickers pasted poems up in public spaces in New Zealand cities, featuring bar codes that could be scanned by smart phones. The code linked to the writers reading their poem on the Poetry Archive. [22]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "About us". Poetry Archive. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "US voices added to poetry archive". BBC News. 16 September 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  3. "Motion cheers online poem archive". BBC News. 14 December 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  4. Sprackland, Jean. ""The Poetry Archive"". NATE Classroom (NATE (National Association for the Teaching of English)) 4 (Spring 2008). 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Classic poets' voices go online". BBC News. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Poetry Archive unveils lost voices". Guardian. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Yet once more, O ye laurels". Guardian. 21 March 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Andrew Motion: a life in writing". Guardian. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  9. "A Laureate's Legacy - The Poetry Archive". BBC Radio 4. 25 Dec 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  10. "Poetry Archive puts recordings online.". Telecomworldwire. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  11. ""Charge of the Light Brigade" (1882)". recorded by Alfred Tennyson in 1890. Poetry Archive. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Poets". Poetry Archive. Archived on 9 April 2013. Template:Citation error. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  13. "John Ashbery". Poetry Archive. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  14. "Carol Ann Duffy". Poetry Archive. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  15. "Well versed in web power". The Scotsman. 16 March 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  16. "Charles Causley". Poetry Archive. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  17. "Poem archive adds historic voices". BBC News. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  18. "Children's archive". Poetry Archive. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  19. "Poetry Archive". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  20. Blake, Julie (February 2009). "Using the Poetry Archive in the English Classroom". English Drama Media (13). 
  21. Lockney, Karen (Fall 2012). "The Poetry Archive in the Classroom". NATE Classroom (NATE) (18). 
  22. "Sharing the deep emotion". New Zealand Herald. 8 September 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 

External linksEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. (view article). (view authors).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.