Friday, October 30, 2009

The Academy of American Poets Audio Archive

I am a big fan of the Academy of American Poets audio archive which contains hundreds of live recordings. I have bought several cds of favorite poets from Philip Levine to W.S. Merwin to Louis Gluck and I play them regularly in my vehicle as I go to and from work.

What strikes me most about each of these recordings besides the sheer excellence of the poetry and the delight of listening to the voices of poets I hugely admire, is the care in which each of these poets is introduced to an audience. Whether it be Gregory Orr introducing Larry Levis or Stanley Plumly introducing Philip Levine, each of the hosts goes well beyond a simple run-down of the poet’s biography or bibliographical information but contextualizes why each poet is important and clearly expresses what it is about the poetry itself that is remarkable and unique.

I guess what I find both refreshing and rewarding about this type of introduction of a poet to an audience is that the poetry, not the person, takes center stage.

I think we do see this kind of care and precision here in Canada at the readings for the Griffin Awards, for instance, but I would love for this idea to migrate outward to other reading series across our country. It would go along way to thawing relations between poets with different sets of poetic concerns and as a consequence, we as a nation would benefit from our poetry being taken much more seriously by all poets in our community - something I believe needs to happen first if we are to expect other countries to take our poetry seriously too.

If you would like to purchase cds from the The Academy of American poets, please order them here.


  1. Yes, I agree. The problem is that most reading series don't have the resources to make the kind of quality recordings organizations such as AAP--or Penn Sound, or the Poetry Foundation, or UBU, can do. I hope the Griffin site will improve the quality of its readings--which aren't fabulous actually.

  2. The LiteraturWerkstatt in Berlin runs a similar, international service called LryikLine