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WORLD POETRY DAY

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Amrita V Nair | Updated on March 15, 2019 Published on March 15, 2019

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Poetry podcasts delve deep into the craft while also offering new insights into the life of the poet

“There is no Frigate like a Book/ To take us Lands away/ Nor any Coursers like a Page/ Of prancing Poetry,” wrote the American poet Emily Dickinson. Before the internet and the democratisation of travel, many loved poetry because it helped transport them away from the humdrum of everyday life. Today, with the advent of so many different forms of entertainment and escape at one’s fingertips, there are often times when it seems as though serious poetry is struggling to find readership and relevance. However, if you know where to look, you will see that technology is instead contributing to a revival of serious poetry and its analysis. For proof, tune into an episode of any of my favourite poetry podcasts listed below. These podcasts are testament to the fact that there are still many poets and poetry lovers out there who believe in the transformative power of verse.

The Poetry Foundation Podcasts

The Poetry Foundation is well-known to all poetry aficionados. One of the largest literary foundations in the world, the organisation works to develop a “vigorous presence for poetry in our culture”. As part of these efforts, the foundation releases a plethora of regularly updated poetry podcasts. My personal favourites amongst these podcasts are Poem of the Day, The Poetry Magazine Podcast and Poetry Off the Shelf.

In Poem of the Day, poets and actors read classic and contemporary poems from all over the word. This no-frills podcast is a great way to discover new poets or to meet a new year resolution to read one poem a day. Most episodes are about two to three minutes long.

In The Poetry Magazine Podcast, the editors of the Foundation’s eponymous magazine read and discuss one or more poems in the latest issue of the magazine with the poet(s). This monthly podcast is a great way for aspiring poets to learn more about what poetry editors look for and like in poems they publish.

If your interest in poetry is more academic in nature, the Poetry Off the Shelf podcast, that is published bimonthly, presents the rich tapestry of contemporary American poetry through interviews and through short audio documentaries. The March 2019 Women’s Day special episode has Meryl Streep narrating a fascinating documentary about women in poetry and how women poets shaped the world around them through their verse. Besides these, the Foundation has several more podcasts dedicated to poetry at poetryfoundation.org/podcasts.

The New Yorker Poetry Podcast

Literary magazine The New Yorker produces a monthly podcast dedicated to poetry, hosted by its poetry editor Kevin Young. In each episode, a poet who has been published in the magazine reads a poem (by a different poet) from The New Yorker archives. After the reading, the poet and Young discuss the nuances of the work and what they liked or learned from the work or its author. Each episode concludes with the poet reading their own poem (often related in theme or style) that has also been published in The New Yorker. The format allows listeners to see how poets interpret and/or are inspired by other poets’ works. The poets’ conversations with Young are fascinating and often offer deep insights into the making of a poet. The podcast can be found at newyorker.com/podcast/poetry.

Classic Poetry Aloud

If you are a fan of classic poetry or if you feel nostalgic for English classes in secondary school where your teacher read out Wordsworth and Poe to the class, this podcast is for you. Featuring over 600 poems from dozens of poets, this podcast is an ambitious labour of love that seeks to make classic poems accessible and familiar to everyone. The readings are beautifully done and bring out the drama and emotional depth of these great works of literature. Listen at classicpoetryaloud.com

Dual Poetry Podcast

While many poetry podcasts are skewed towards works written in English, the Dual Poetry Podcast lends a voice to poets across the world who write in their native languages. Hosted by the UK-based Poetry Translation Centre, the podcast features a poem that is first read by its author in the language it was originally written in and then read again in English, often by the translator of the poem. I believe that this podcast is a true gem as it allows one to hear the rhythm and intonation of poetry in various languages and brings attention to beautiful works that may not otherwise reach wider audiences. Featured poets include the prolific Mohan Rana, who writes in Hindi. Listen at poetrytranslation.org/podcasts.

Commonplace: Conversations with poets (and other people)

A favourite with writers and poets, Commonplace is hosted by poet Rachel Zucker and features intimate conversations with poets and artists about their lives, sources of inspiration, and works.

Zucker is an empathetic and engaging conversationalist. As a result, each episode of the podcast features deeply candid interviews that tackle everything from dealing with failure as a writer to coping with mental illnesses. The podcast offers beautiful, at times heartbreaking perspectives into the process of creating art. You can listen to it at commonpodcast.com.

Amrita V Nair is a freelance writer, public policy specialist and podcast enthusiast

Published on March 15, 2019
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