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Poets go online

UK's online poetry archive features voices of Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2005 15:35 IST

Historic recordings of Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson reading their own poems feature in an online archive launched on Wednesday that aims to preserve the voices of contemporary English-language poets.

The Poetry Archive, under development since 1999, is the brainchild of British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Richard Carrington, a recording engineer specialising in the spoken word.

Harold Pinter, Seamus Heaney and Margaret Atwood are among the writers the archive has already recorded reading their poetry.

"Actors may (or may not) read poems well, but poets have unique rights to their work, and unique insights and interests to offer as we hear their idiom, pacing, tone and emphases," said Motion.

"The readings are at once instant in their appeal, and lingering in their impact."

Some poets like Browning and Tennyson were recorded after the introduction of the phonograph at the end of the 19th century, but many more were not, including Thomas Hardy, AE Houseman and DH Lawrence.

The archive's aim is to make sure such omissions never happen again.

"When a poet dies without making a recording, a precious resource is lost for ever and as time goes by that loss is felt more and more keenly," the archive said in an introduction on its website, (

The earliest recording on the site is Browning reciting part of a poem at a dinner in 1889, the year of his death.

The site also features Tennyson reciting his The Charge Of The Light Brigade in 1890, as well as later recordings by Rudyard Kipling and WB Yeats.

It has been funded by grants from the British government, the Lottery Fund, private foundations and charities.

First Published: Nov 30, 2005 15:23 IST