The People Reading … Poetry Archive

In the Guardian‘s “The Week in Books” last Saturday Andrew Motion drew attention again to the fabulous Poetry Archive, and in particularly that they have been working with the Poetry Foundation to add in American poets reading their poems, including one of my wife Kate’s favourites: William Carlos Williams reading “The Red Wheelbarrow“.

However I do think they are missing three opportunities, three opportunities that might be provided by an adjunct site.

Firstly I want to be ably to tag the readings – even if it’s something simple like an “add to favourites” but a more complex arbitrary tag would be great. This might be achieved using external services like delicious. For example one could imagine audio engineers being interested in tagging all the recordings produced by Richard Carrington, or listeners tagging aspects of the reading itself (slow, dry, romantic, …). It’s impossible to second guess what categories such folksonomies would produce, but I bet they’d be interesting and useful.

Secondly I’d want the public to be able to add their own recordings. It is fascinating to hear poets read their own work but theirs are not the definitive recordings. Just this weekend a presenter on Radio 3 was commenting that the recordings of Stravinsky conducting his own works are not the best interpretations of the pieces, and I expect that the same is true of poetry. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear the same poem read by the poet, other famous voices, and a host of people who just enjoy it?

Thirdly, and perhaps most extravagantly, I think this might be a great place to re-use Tom Coates and Tristan Ferne‘s project Annotatable Audio / Find Listen Label, an idea I’ve long wanted to rebuild. Since discussion and comparisons of different readings of the same poems would sometimes look at particular lines and the meaning implied by the reader a wiki that allowed listeners to narrow in on fragments of the audio to annotate and discuss them would be ideal.

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