by Phil James
As the majority of the music industry turns to Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming apps to drum up popularity, you might be surprised to learn that these platforms also contain a vast collection of poetry. While nothing will replace a pocket book of poetry on a long walk, Spotify’s library provides you with a viable alternative.
Listening to poetry is an essential part of understanding how to write it. Pay attention to the rhythm and tone of some of these classic and contemporary figures to inform your own your own work. And listen to the silences, too.
1. Billy Collins – The Best Cigarette – listen here
Collins’ poetry book captures the former Poet Laureate’s humorous, playful tone. Never grandstanding and over-serious, the audiobook is great for long walks or road trips.
2. T.S. Eliot – 1955 London Caedmon Readings – listen here
T.S. Eliot’s reading style is almost alien compared to the more expressive style popular today. Nevertheless, his flat style scarcely dampens the magnitude of his words.
3. Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes & Peter Porter Read Their Poetry – listen here
Plath and Hughes were pioneers of the confessional genre, a type of poetry that remains remarkably potent in the 21st century. A great vintage feel to the audio.
4. Gertrude, H.D., Louise Bogan, Edna St.Vincent Millay, Muriel Rukeyser Read their Poetry – listen here
Overshadowed by the Eliot’s and Pound’s of the era, the women of modernist and imagist poetry chose clarity over the cryptic, linguistic beauty over erudition.
5. Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long – Remembrance year – listen here
There’s a good reason why Shane Koyczan is a rising star in the Canadian poetry; he speaks to those who struggle in both their youth and old age, but does it with accessible clarity. One of my personal favorites.
6. Charles Bukowski – Master Collection – listen here
Poetry for a long walk home in a big city. Bukowski is funny, sarcastic, yet equally knowledgeable of the pains of the human condition.
7. Carl Sandburg – Songs of America – listen here
A poet who speaks volumes in both his words and his silences. Sandburg will teach you how to command a room, and how to command a tone of greatness with little effort.
8. Andrea Gibson – Flower Boy – listen hereAs one of the best slam poets in the world, Gibson captivates her audiences with a tone as forceful as a freight train. A perfect warmup if you’re reading your poetry to a large audience.
9. Elizabeth Bishop – Reads her poetry – listen here
Bishop is at the very least an underrated master of the genre. Take a dive into her lengthy meditations on the natural and urban world.
10. Jean Vilar – The Anthology of French Poetry [French] – listen here
French film and stage actor Jean Vilar does his best Charles Baudelaire and Guillaume Apollinaire (among others) in this mesmerizing collection. You don’t even need to speak French to appreciate his command of the 19th and 20th century French masters.