Celebrate National Poetry Month with 50 Newly Streaming Audio Recordings

National Poetry Month is at its halfway mark, but we’re still in (virtual) full swing at the Library of Congress, cooking up new ways to bring poetry into your lives and homes.

Marianne Moore. Prints & Photographs Division.

Of course, our celebration of National Poetry Month wouldn’t be complete without our annual release of digitized recordings to the online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature collection, and today’s your lucky day: We’re over the moon to announce that we’ve just added 50 newly streaming recordings for your listening pleasure.

First, a little history: The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature dates back to 1943 and contains nearly 2,000 audio recordings of poets and writers participating in literary events at the Library of Congress, along with sessions recorded in the Recording Laboratory in the Library’s Jefferson Building. Until 2015, when we started to digitize the collection, most of these recordings were only accessible to those who visited the Library of Congress and requested the magnetic reels in person.

Now, if I may say so, this year’s digital release is particularly exciting. During this past summer and fall, our Poetry and Literature Center interns and volunteers (thanks to Alia, Antonio, and Megan!) spent many, many hours arms-deep in the archive’s paper records, cross-referencing our database of recordings with physical author permission release forms in our filing cabinets. (If I could, I would post a photo of these looming green cabinets, stuffed with permission forms and historic correspondence between iconic authors, publishers, poets laureate, and Library staff.)

Gwendolyn Brooks. Prints & Photographs Division.

With an archive like ours, which dates back almost 80 years, there are bound to be some paper forms that slip through the cracks (literally and figuratively), and due to rights restrictions we can only digitize and stream recordings for which we have author or estate permission. After a thorough reconciliation, we were shocked and monumentally thrilled to discover more than 150 permission forms previously unaccounted for. Long story short: We learned we had permission to digitize and make available more than 150 recordings than we originally thought!

All of our recordings in the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature are special, of course, but this year we’re particularly eager to add some extraordinarily rare recordings to the online collection—now streaming and accessible to anyone in the world with an internet connection.

Ralph Ellison. Prints & Photographs Division.

Among these additions are readings, discussions, and lectures by many of our consultants in poetry and poets laureate—including a 1978 reunion reading featuring 13 of our consultants. Only a year after The Bean Eaters was published (which contains her iconic poem “We Real Cool”), Gwendolyn Brooks reads poems (including “We Real Cool”) in the Jefferson Recording Laboratory in 1961. There’s also a 1963 recording of Marianne Moore reading and making the audience laugh uproariously in the Coolidge Auditorium; a 1970 conversation between luminary children’s authors Maurice Sendak and Virginia Haviland; a celebration of Robert Frost’s centenary in 1974, featuring lectures and a dramatic performance of the poet’s work; and a 1983 recording of Ralph Ellison reading from a novel in progress (Ellison’s never-finished second novel that he spent 42 years writing until his death in 1994; an edited version, titled Three Days Before the Shooting…, was published in 2010).

The above are just a few treasures in the trove, of course. Without further ado, here are the 50 new additions to the online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature for 2020:

  1. 1998 Witter Bynner Fellows Carol Muske and Carl Phillips reading their poems in the Montpelier Room, Library of Congress, Oct. 16, 1998
  2. A total view of South Africa: a lecture by Alan Paton in the Coolidge Auditorium, November 22, 1977
  3. A. Poulin reading his poems in the Recording Laboratory, Feb. 5, 1974
  4. A.R. Ammons reading his poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Oct. 22, 1963
  5. Alice Fulton and James Galvin reading their poems in the Montpelier Room, March 14, 1991
  6. An Evening of Russian and American poetry: marking the publication of The Human Experience with readings by Stanley Kunitz, Sharon Olds, F.D. Reeve, Henry Taylor, C.K. Williams, Oleg Chukhontsev, Yuri Kuznetsov, Yunna Moritz, and Vladimir Sokolov in the Coolidge Auditorium, May 3, 1989
  7. Aram Saroyan reading his poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Feb. 2, 1970
  8. Archibald MacLeish reading his poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, March 29, 1976
  9. Audre Lorde and Marge Piercy reading their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Feb. 9, 1982
  10. Barbara Guest reading her poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, June 2, 1969
  11. Black perspectives concert: Michael S. Harper reading his poems to cello accompaniment at the University of Illinois, Urbana, May 12, 1971
  12. Carolyn Forche and George Starbuck reading their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 26, 1982
  13. Consultants’ reunion: readings by thirteen Consultants in Poetry in the Coolidge Auditorium, March 6, 1978
  14. David Ignatow and Robert Creeley reading and discussing their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Nov. 25, 1974
  15. Derek Walcott reading his poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Oct. 20, 1964
  16. Eavan Boland and Donald Justice reading their poems in the Mumford Room, October 15, 1992
  17. Ellen Bryant Voigt reading her poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Oct. 5, 1978
  18. Gwendolyn Brooks reading her poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Jan. 19, 1961
  19. Jim Harrison and Mark Strand reading and discussing their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Mar. 3, 1975
  20. Joseph Brodsky reading his poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, April 16, 1984
  21. Joseph Brodsky reading his poems in Russian in the Recording Laboratory, February 28, 1979
  22. Josephine Jacobsen reading her poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 4, 1971
  23. Julia Randall and May Swenson reading and discussing their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Feb. 16, 1970
  24. Larry Levis and Thylias Moss reading their poems in the Montpelier Room, February 14, 1991
  25. Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, and Gregory Orr reading and discussing their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, April 21, 1975
  26. Marianne Moore reading her poems with comment in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 21, 1963
  27. Mark Strand reading his poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Apr. 23, 1969
  28. May Sarton and Romulus Linney reading from their work in the Coolidge Auditorium, Apr. 23, 1979
  29. Metaphor as pure adventure: a lecture by James Dickey in the Coolidge Auditorium, December 12, 1967
  30. Miller Williams reading his poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, Jan. 4, 1980
  31. Mona Van Duyn and Elliott Coleman reading their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Nov. 22, 1971
  32. National Children’s Book Week anniversary program: in observance of the fiftieth anniversary of National Children’s Book Week (November 17-21), writers read and discuss children’s poetry on November 17, 1969, in the Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress
  33. Peter Taylor and John Updike reading and discussing their fiction in the Coolidge Auditorium, Nov. 13, 1967
  34. Philip Levine and David Wagoner reading and discussing their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, March 17, 1975
  35. Questions to an artist who is also an author: a conversation between Maurice Sendak and Virginia Haviland in the Coolidge Auditorium, November 16, 1970
  36. Rainy Mountain Cemetery: N. Scott Momaday reading from his works in the Coolidge Auditorium, Jan. 18, 1971
  37. Ralph Ellison reading from a novel in progress in the Coolidge Auditorium, March 28, 1983
  38. Robert Earl Hayden and Derek Walcott reading and discussing their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 21, 1968
  39. Robert Earl Hayden reading his poems with comment in the Recording Laboratory, July 25, 1978
  40. Robert Earl Hayden reading his poems with comment in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 3, 1977
  41. Robert Hayden reading his poems with comment in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 5, 1976
  42. Robert Frost centenary: a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Frost in the Coolidge Auditorium, March 26, 1974
  43. Robert Penn Warren reading his poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, October 6, 1986
  44. Robertson Davies reading from his forthcoming novel, What’s Bred in the Bone, in the Coolidge Auditorium, October 16, 1984
  45. Russell Edson and James Laughlin reading their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Oct. 29, 1984
  46. Ruth Stone and Constance Urdang reading their poems in the Coolidge Auditorium, Mar. 3, 1981
  47. Susan Mitchell and Charles Wright reading their poems in the Montpelier Room, December 16, 1993
  48. Three young poets reading at the Library of Congress: Elizabeth Alexander, Allison Joseph, and Karen Mitchell in the Mumford Room on February 10, 1994
  49. Toi Derricotte and Marie Howe reading their poems in the Mumford Room, December 2, 1993
  50. William Jay Smith reading his poems with comment in the Coolidge Auditorium, Dec. 1, 1969

We hope you enjoy listening to these recordings and exploring the rest of the online collection. Happy National Poetry Month!

One Comment

  1. Eric Heath
    April 21, 2020 at 11:32 am

    This is extraordinary! Thanks to you and the interns for the work that led to this treasure trove.

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