The Poetry Archive is an online resource which has been created to record the voices of living poets and to preserve them for posterity, whilst helping to make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience. With over 130 recordings the Archive offers a wide range of poets and is adding new recordings all the time, thus presenting a wonderful record of the voices of contemporary poets. The complete list of recordings, each approximately one-hour long, are available on CD from the Poetry Bookshop Online.
Co-directors Sir Andrew Motion and the recording producer Richard Carrington are continuing to record poets and to add them to the Archive. They believe that 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?
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Excerpts from the recordings are available on the Poetry Archive website, together with the Children’s Poetry Archive and lesson plans for teachers. All the CDs are available from this site.CD of the month- Leontia Flynn
Born in County Down in 1974, 2011 T S Eliot Prize shortlisted poet Leontia Flynn was hailed by Fran Brearton in 2004 as ‘one of the most strikingly original poetic voices to have emerged from Northern Ireland since Paul Muldoon', a claim that has been proven entirely true, for just as Muldoon was described as "among the few significant poets of our half-century", so Flynn's place among the Poetry Book Society's ‘Next Generation Poets', awarded in the subsequent year, serves to assure us that she is set to meet our new century head on with her perceptive, pertinent verse.
That quality is central to her work, allowing Flynn to simultaneously illuminate and question our world. To give just one example from the cornucopia with which we are presented, the poem ‘The Furthest Distances I've Travelled' demonstrates this pertinence and lucid clarity perfectly. Flynn opens with an account of an experience self-confessedly easy for her readers and listeners to access, althoughthe elegance with which, by dint of the poise with which she crafts her language and images, she sidesteps any implication of banality must be acknowledged:
‘Like many folk, when first I saddled a rucksack,
feeling its weight on my back -
the way my spine
curved under it like a meridian -
I thought: Yes. This is how
And then, as the poem progresses, Flynn calls into play the brilliance that makes each of her poems speak to us; she opens out the poem to a scale that soars far above the everyday events in which it is rooted;
...that the furthest distances I've travelled
have been those between people. And what survives
of holidaying briefly in their lives.'
Do not, however, fall into the trap of expecting this depiction of value in the quotidian to be an unsolicited sermon offering her readers a chance to become ‘ better people', Flynn makes nothing even bordering on an attempt to force morals into us. Instead she has invested in her poetry an extraordinary amount of personal emotion, from the poem ‘To Our Fathers', which has a painful poignancy to it born of her own father's Alzheimer's, and of her friend's father's recent death; ‘Our Fathers, the first gigantic men of the earth,', to her strangely tender description of an asthma attack;
‘my lungs close over, tight as a baby's fist
roundits first rattle.'
That ability to make something new and striking from even those things we dismiss as concrete or exhausted of every possible interpretation means that every poem encountered is eagerly anticipated, nobody can predict what new facet of our world Flynn will return to us, cut anewand polished to castlight into fascinating, alien patterns. This applies as much to her form as to content, as in her ‘Wikipedia poems', nothing less than a sonnet sequence recounting the lives and observations of various historical and literary figuresin which - ‘Orwell has a vision of the future', ‘Fitzgerald shifts in bed' and Hitchcock realises he ‘will never learn to drive'.
The two collections comprising this recording are These Days
, an attempt to define what it is to lead a life,which won her the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and its successor Drives
, a book of restless, questing journeys, real and imagined. Each is brilliant, both in its own right, and in context of the other, but what makes the final experience so rewarding can only be the poet herself. At once earnest and entertaining Flynn steps lightly through the masterpieces she has created, guiding her readers from poem to poem with brief, warm explanations of the events that inspired each new work, and slowing to put everything she has into a reading that shows us how much care she took over them, controlling every word, pronouncing every silence.
Other Works by This Author: