Why should people help the Poetry Archive?

Hello and welcome to the Poetry Archive. And, to our old friends, a very warm welcome back. What you’re looking at now is a revamped version of the site, and I want to introduce it to you by saying I hope you enjoy what you see and hear as much as we’ve enjoyed providing it.

We’ve kept all the essential elements of the old site which have made it such a popular and valued place to find poems. And we’ve added many new features which we hope will make your visits all the more rewarding.

It seems a long time since we launched the Archive in 2005. We now welcome over a quarter of a million visitors every month, from all over the world and can reasonably claim, therefore, to be the world’s largest and best equipped collection of poets reading their own work. This means we’ve grown a great deal and learned many valuable lessons but we have remained true to the values we held when we began.

We continue to conserve voices that might otherwise be lost. We continue to prove that the sound of a poem is as indispensable to its meaning as the words on a page. We continue to show how fascinating it is to hear a poet read their own work.  Not just fascinating, in fact - enlightening. Hearing their accent, hearing their idiom, seeing where they place their emphases. We continue to provide the lesson plans, the glossaries, the introductions and other material that have made us indispensable to teachers and students as well as helpful to the general reader.

And the new things? Well, let me begin by mentioning Poetry by Heart, the national poetry recitation competition for fourteen-to eighteen-year olds. It has its own website now. We hope you’ll enjoy exploring it, via the links you’ll find here.

Let me state the obvious and say that, in technological terms, a great deal has changed over the last eight years. So of course we needed a new site so we could provide the best possible experience for our users. In particular, we needed it to make it possible for you to download poems, in the same way that you might download a song from iTunes. This downloads store is the first of its kind in the poetry world and means, for the first time, you can take poetry with you wherever you are, create your own poetry anthologies and share and comment on the site via Twitter and the Facebook page.

Also, and just as significant, you’ll find a new section on the site in which contemporary poets introduce and read selections of work by their classic predecessors, giving a voice to our great forebears who lived before the age of recording. We’re very proud of this additional aspect of the Archive and hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we’ve enjoyed compiling it.

You’ll find a lot of other additions and improvements to the site, as well as a clean, clear, fresh look to the whole thing. And we’re very grateful for all the support we’ve received to make these things possible. 

But, remember, the Archive only exists and grows due to the generosity of its users. So, please, if you feel able to help us collect existing recordings, fund the recordings of new poets, support our education work, we would love to hear from you. You can donate to us online and, if you’d like to get in touch, do that. This is your Archive. Help it to grow from strength to strength.

The great American poet Robert  Frost says: “The ear is the best reader” and you’ll hear this proved by poet after poet on the Archive. As you enjoy listening to voices you already know, I hope you’ll be drawn to others who are new to you and find great pleasure there as well. So, happy listening!


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