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Library Launches Online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature

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Listen: Robert Frost interview with Randall Jarrell, May 19, 1959.


Elizabeth Bishop (photo credit Alice Helen Methfessel, courtesy of Frank Bidart).
Elizabeth Bishop (photo credit Alice Helen Methfessel, courtesy of Frank Bidart). Two recordings featuring Bishop are included among the initial releases of the online Archive of Recoded Poetry and Literature.

From the Catbird Seat is excited to announce the online launch of a selection of recordings from the Library of Congress’s Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, a series of audio recordings of renowned poets and prose writers reading from their work. Available as streamed audio, the Archive’s initial launch includes 50 recordings; additional material from the collection will be added on a monthly basis.

The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature includes recordings dating back to 1943, when Allen Tate was Consultant in Poetry. It contains nearly 2,000 recordings of poets and prose writers participating in literary events at the Library, as well as sessions at the Library’s recording studio in the Jefferson Building. Most of these recordings were captured on magnetic tape reels, and have only been accessible by visiting the Library in person.

The initial launch includes recordings of 25 of the 49 poets who have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1937-1985) or Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry (1986-present), including Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Bogan, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Dickey, Rita Dove, Robert Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Louise Glück, Donald Hall, Anthony Hecht, Randall Jarrell, Maxine Kumin, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Lowell, William Meredith, W. S. Merwin, Howard Nemerov, Robert Pinsky, Charles Simic, William Stafford, Mark Strand, Allen Tate, Mona Van Duyn, and Richard Wilbur.

Other literary luminaries included in the initial release include Nobel Laureates Mario Vargas Llosa and Czeslaw Milosz and writers Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Listen: Kurt Vonnegut lectures in the Coolidge Auditorium, Feb. 1, 1971. In the course of his lecture, Vonnegut read excerpts from Breakfast of Champions, which was unpublished at the time of reading.


The launch of the online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature is the first of two major online releases of literary recordings by the Library. During National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), the Library’s Hispanic Division will make available 50 recordings from its Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape.

We hope you enjoy many hours of listening to some of America’s, and the world’s, most celebrated poets and writers. Please feel free to share some of your favorite recordings, or moments from particular recordings, in the comments below. Questions about the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature should be directed to the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center.