About us

The Poetry Archive exists to help make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience. It came into being as a result of a meeting, in a recording studio, between Andrew Motion, soon after he became U.K. Poet Laureate in 1999, 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.

A project for posterity

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. 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. 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. 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 has, therefore, been created to make sure that such omissions never happen again and that everyone has a chance to hear major poets reading their work.

Insight, understanding, enjoyment

Some actors read poems effectively and poets sometimes read other poets' work with intelligence and sympathy. But 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.

Using state-of the-art technology, the Poetry Archive restores poetry to its roots. It preserves for future generations uniquely valuable voices which might otherwise be lost. And it will re-energise, enliven and enhance the teaching of poetry at all levels.

Poet Selection Process

The Poetry Archive aims to bring the widest possible audience to the fullest possible range of English-language poetry being published around the world, and to complement that poetry with educational material of value both to the specialist and to the general reader. It has no editorial agenda except to demonstrate the range and richness of poetry in all its forms.

The Archive will never be complete. We plan to go on adding more and more recordings as time passes and funds permit. There are very many English-language poets we want to add to the site; because the Poetry Archive is a charity with limited means, this process of growth has to be structured.

Poets are chosen for inclusion by a panel under the Chairmanship of Andrew Motion, one of the founders of the Archive. The selection process is guided by advice from a large number of writers and critics, many of whom have specialist knowledge of particular regions or styles, and the panel's choices are determined by several factors: by the wish to demonstrate the variety of poetry being published, by the wish to make a selection which demonstrates the excellence of every kind of that variety, and by the availability of the necessary funding.

The panel is always looking for reasons to include people and never for reasons to exclude anyone. At any given moment there is a long list of poets we want to be able to add to the Archive. We always welcome recommendations from visitors to the site about the poets we should add.

It is important to emphasize that we do not consider poets who are already in the Archive to be better poets than any who are not there yet. Funding sometimes dictates which poets we can add to the collection, and the need to acquire copyright permissions sometimes slows down the process of adding recordings which are high on our wish list.

The Poetry Archive is grateful for the generous donations it has received from statutory bodies, from charitable trusts and foundations and from philanthropic individuals, and looks forward to further donations, which will enable us to expand our collection of recordings.

Supporting the Archive

The Archive is a not-for-profit organisation with charitable status. It is run by a small staff, supported by a distinguished board of trustees and a panel of specialist advisers. We depend for our existence on funding from public bodies, charitable trusts and generous individuals. The money we earn from sales of Poetry Archive CDs goes towards making more recordings.

CDs

Most of the contemporary recordings in the Archive are new recordings, specially made for the Poetry Archive. Many were made in recording studios; some were made in the poets' homes. A few recordings included here are extracts from commercial recordings. You can buy copies of all these recordings by visiting the Poetry Bookshop Online.

 

The Poetry Archive

President:
Seamus Heaney

Patrons:
Billy Collins, Melvyn Bragg

Trustees:
Gary McKeone (Chair), James Booth, Prof. Teresa Cremin, Tony Lacey, Daljit Nagra, Loveday Shewell, Prof. Morag Styles, Jean Sprackland.

Directors:
Andrew Motion & Richard Carrington

Education Director:
Julie Blake jb@poetryarchive.org

Assistant Director
Sally Yeomans sally@poetryarchive.org

Business Development Director
Serena Burns serena@poetryarchive.org

Historic Recordings Manager:
Esther Morgan

Editors:
Andrew Bailey, Esther Morgan, Helen Ivory, Ben Wilkinson, Alex Pryce, Sam Riviere, George Ttoouli, Emily Berry, Stephen Pickles, Leti Mortimer, Siobhan Harvey, Brian Johnstone, Dieter Riemenschneider, Prof. Macdonald P. Jackson, Mark Ford, David Eggleton, Riemke Ensing, Gerri Kimber, Hugh Roberts, Robert Sullivan, Vincent O'Sullivan, Simone Oettli, Janet Wilson and John Tolputt

Film Maker:
Alan Vaughan, Eye Witness Productions, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, U.K. Eye Witness Video

Audio Editor:
Chris Panton: DB Studios, Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K. DB Studios

Contracts Managers:
Stephen Aucutt and Kevin Stewart, Contracts for Publishing Ltd.

Rights & Acquisitions Manager:
Connie Robertson

Finance Manager
Fiona Meadley

PR:
Colman Getty Ltd, Middlesex House, 34-42 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JE (020.7631.2666) www.colmangettypr.co.uk

Website Design & Development:
VML, 83 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5AR. www.vml.com

Identity:
www.red-stone.com

New Zealand Poets
Project Manager: Jan Kemp; Assistant Manager: Siobhan Harvey

How to get the best out of the Archive

Whatever your previous experience of listening to poetry, here are some tips to help you enjoy the recordings the Archive has to offer.

Watch the video introduction

A welcome to the Archive by
Andrew Motion, former UK Poet Laureate

Andrew Motion tells you why the Archive has been created and what he hopes you will enjoy as you explore it.

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.
Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary