Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience


famous poets using ‘poet voice’

Another article on ‘poet voice’ and another one. Neither are new, just capturing for the record. Also for the record, two famous poets using ‘poet voice’:

Natasha Trethewey (skip to 12:40):


Louise Gluck (skip to 1:00):

At the end of the day, I suppose it shouldn’t matter, really. I guess what makes me somewhat anxious is the fact that these are big-time role models for the rest of us, and I wonder if they consciously intend it – do they say to themselves, I use ‘poet voice’ in my public readings and you know what, I’m fine with that?

Or do they just not know?

Update: Lots of commentary on Facebook at this link


“Stop using ‘Poet Voice'”

Maybe the poet is the great Louise Glück or the former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Maybe the poet is a close friend. Whoever it is, that person has just slipped into Poet Voice, ruining everybody’s evening and their own poetry because now the audience has to spend a lot of intellectual and emotional energy trying to understand the words of the poem through a thick cloud of oratorical perfume.

Full article by Rich Smith here.

Lol. Don’t disagree with what he is saying, but my pet peeve remains the end of line note. Which sometimes, but not always, comes along with other characteristics described in the article.

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Really? Poetry audio for sale – $1.53 per poem download

Being generally against attempts to insert commerce and/or a profit motive into poetry, I’m not at all a fan of this idea. You can listen online for free, but downloading will cost you 89p (or $1.53) per poem, while an ‘album’ seems to be going for £9.99 (or $17.14). More expensive than many current music hits on iTunes. Is anyone buying, I wonder…?

Sir Andrew Motion launches iTunes-style site for poetry

Former [UK] poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion has launched an iTunes-style website for poetry featuring a host of famous names reading their favourite verse.

More than 1,600 different recordings of work by hundreds of writers can be listened to for free or downloaded to keep for a fee from the Poetry Archive.

Recordings include Spike Milligan reading The Land Of The Bumbly Boo and war poet Siegfried Sassoon’s The Dug Out as well as contemporary figures including Carol Ann Duffy.

There is also a section including work by authors who died before the invention of recording equipment featuring actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren and Kenneth Branagh reading their favourite poems.

Among the recordings are Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe reading a Shakespeare sonnet and The Hour star Romola Garai reading Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach

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‘And each and every vapor spent’

Like the poem, but not at all sure what the reader’s intent is with this almost hesitant and super-enunciated reading style, or if there is a particular background to it, but don’t find it particularly enticing or convincing.

Variations on Some of Dante’s Last Lines by Norma Cole (poem text) (1 min 30 secs)


Love Bill Murray but maybe he shouldn’t read Wallace Stevens?

It may be a good reading, but I can’t tell – it’s so slooooooow.

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Carol Ann Duffy – not so much

Ouch. Really a case where a poet would be so much better off getting someone else to read their poems for them.

She reads her poem You here. More of her readings here.

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So… Readings. What’s the point?

A series of articles at Ploughshares on poetry readings this week:

So… Readings. What’s the point?

Why Are Readings So Awkward?


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