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Billy Collins Poetry Brought to Animated Life

Who doesn’t love Billy Collins, the former US Poet Laureate? The actor Bill Murray reads his poetry at construction sites. Adorable toddlers recite his poetry from memory. And now artists have created animated videos that bring 11 Collins poems to life.

James Earl Jones Reads Othello at White House Poetry Jam

Not long after taking office, President Obama hosted the first White House poetry jam – an evening dedicated to the spoken word and bringing verses to life. Esperanza Spalding’s performance was a high point. And later came James Earl Jones, arguably the best special effect in Star Wars, who recited lines from Shakespeare instead of Dr.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Recites “Ode to a Nightingale”

70 years ago today, F. Scott Fitzgerald died an untimely death, his life cut short by alcoholism, tuberculosis, and eventually a series of heart attacks. He was only 44 years old. Today, we remember Fitzgerald with some vintage audio – the author of The Great Gatsby reciting John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” from memory.

Rimbaud: A Life in Slideshow

It’s the life of the great French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, in a 10 minute slideshow. The video traces the arc of Rimbaud’s short life (1854–1891), stitching together images from 19th century France, photos taken by Rimbaud himself, and manuscripts scribbled by the poet.

3 Year Old Recites Poem, “Litany,” by Billy Collins

Three year olds can wreak havoc on a home, and the precocious ones can recite poetry too. Here we have a toddler reciting Billy Collins’ poem “Litany” (find text here) and also some lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson (while dressed as Superman, of course).

Borges: The Task of Art

As he neared the end of his life, Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986) offered his thoughts on the “task of art,” essentially distilling 80+ years of wisdom into a few pithy lines.

Dennis Hopper Reads Rudyard Kipling on Johnny Cash Show

The poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling (1899). The scene is The Johnny Cash Show, 1970.

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukowski

Next up: Tom Waits reads Charles Bukowski’s poem, The Laughing Heart. As Zoran (a reader from Greece) observes, Waits reads the poem much like Bukowski would have read it himself.
Of course, this raises the question: How did Bukowski read his poetry? The Secret of My Endurance holds the answer.

William Carlos Williams Reads His Poetry (1954)

William Carlos Williams – doctor by day, poet by night, and certainly one of America’s finest. In this 1954 audio clip, we hear Williams reading his own poetry at the storied 92nd Street Y in New York City.


Bill Murray Reads Poetry at a Construction Site

Another great New York City moment. Last spring, construction workers building the new home for Poets House were treated to a short poetry reading by the actor Bill Murray. We initially encounter Murray reading lines from Billy Collins’ Another Reason I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House.

City Poems: A New Literary iPhone App

Writing in The Guardian, Victor Keegan, a longtime journalist and poet, talks about his new iPhone app, City Poems. The newly released app will run you $2.99 on iTunes, which makes it less than open, I know.

“April is the Cruellest Month…”

T.S. Eliot reads from The Wasteland, one of the great poems of the last century. It begins famously:
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Carl Sandburg on “What’s My Line?”

What’s My Line? aired on CBS from 1950 to 1967, making it the longest-running game show in American television history. During its eighteen seasons, the show featured hundreds of celebrities, including some of America’s leading cultural figures.

Charles Bukowski “Bluebird”

Get the text here.

T.S. Eliot Reads The Waste Land

T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem, The Waste Land, is often considered one of the great poems of the 20th century. Above, you can listen to Eliot himself reading his modernist masterpiece (text here). And, if you want more, how about Eliot reading The Love Song of J.

Wallace Stevens Reads His Own Poetry

This little collection gives you access to Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), one of America’s great poets, reading his own poetry. Among the poems, you will hear “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain,” “Vacancy in the Park,” and “To an Old Philosopher in Rome.

The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats

It’s a happy trend. Increasingly, we’re seeing museums launching dynamic online exhibitions to accompany their exhibitions on the ground. In the past, we highlighted the Tate Modern’s panoramic tour of Mark Rothko’s work.

“September 1, 1939″ by W.H. Auden

The poem was W.H. Auden’s. The date marked the moment when Germany invaded Poland, initiating the start of World War II. “September 1, 1939″ was originally published in The New Republic on October 18, 1939. You can find the text of the poem here.

Art Inspired Poetry

An FYI for art and poetry lovers: “Each month, TATE ETC. publishes new poetry by leading poets such as John Burnside, Moniza Alvi, Adam Thorpe, Alice Oswald and David Harsent who respond to works from the Tate Collection. (Subscribe to the Poem of the Month RSS feed.


Inaugural Poet Talks with Stephen Colbert

Elizabeth Alexander recited one of her own poems at Obama’s inauguration last week and now talks poetry (both highbrow and lowbrow) with Stephen Colbert. All in all, she does a pretty good job of hanging in there.

Rare Recording of Walt Whitman Reading From His Poem “America”

Apparently, this is “an authentic wax cylinder recording of Whitman reading from his late poem ‘America’ that appeared in 1888 …”




Listen to J.R.R. Tolkien Read Poems from The Fellowship of the Ring, in Elvish and English (1952)

In my book Cate Blanchett can do no wrong, but her performance in the Lord of the Rings movies was particularly spellbinding, especially when she spoke the Elvish language of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe.

Charles Bukowski Tells the Story of His Worst Hangover Ever

Charles Bukowski, “Hank” to his friends, was once called the “best poet in America” by kindred spirit Jean Genet. He was a writer who told the truth, when he wasn’t lying, and who could tell a great story, whether sober or drunk.

The Second Known Photo of Emily Dickinson Emerges

Until now, we’ve only had one authenticated photo of the nineteenth century poet, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). The photo (above), taken when she was only 16 years old, shows Dickinson as a youngster in high school circa 1847, well before her literary career came into full bloom. That has been the only visual trace of her to date.

The Business Card of William Carlos Williams: Doctor by Day, Poet by Night

There you have it: the business card of William Carlos Williams. Yes, that William Carlos Williams. Imagist poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, critic, writer of short stories — and New Jersey pediatrician.

Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ and Other Poems

When Dylan Thomas was a little boy his father would read Shakespeare to him at bedtime. The boy loved the sound of the words, even if he was too young to understand the meaning. His father, David John Thomas, taught English at a grammar school in southern Wales but wanted to be a poet. He was bitterly disappointed with his station in life.

Hear Oscar Wilde Recite a Section ofThe Ballad of Reading Gaol (1897)

Even those of us who have never read The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or anything else Oscar Wilde wrote can still recite a thing or two he said.

James Franco Reads a Dreamily Animated Version of Allen Ginsberg’s Epic Poem ‘Howl’

“Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell.” With those words, William Carlos Williams gives fair warning to anyone bold enough to read Allen Ginsberg’s harrowing poem from the dark underbelly of America, “Howl.

Bill Murray Reads Wallace Stevens Poems — “The Planet on The Table” and “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts”

On June 11th, Poets House hosted The 17th Annual Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge. The event features “readings of the poetry of Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes and other greats,” all in order to raise funds for the New York City non-profit dedicated to cultivating a wider audience for poetry.

Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg Visit the Grave of Jack Kerouac (1975)

Above you can watch a rare 1975 meeting, of sorts, of three hugely influential twentieth-century cultural minds: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and — in spirit, anyway — Jack Kerouac, who died ten years before.

Bukowski: Born Into This — The Definitive Documentary on the Hard-Living American Poet (2003)

Neglected to mark the occasion of poet and novelist Charles Bukowski‘s birthday yesterday? Then observe it today with a viewing of the documentary Bukowski: Born Into This (available for purchase here).


Alexander Hamilton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poetry Evening

Recently we brought you the story of the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel, as told in a drunken stupor by Mark Gagliardi and starring Zombieland’s Michael Cera as Hamilton. Now we have another unusual narrator of the life of America’s first Treasury Secretary.

T.S. Eliot Reads His Modernist Masterpieces “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Did you know T.S.

Shakespeare’s Satirical Sonnet 130, As Read By Stephen Fry

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” begins Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare.

Allen Ginsberg Reads a Poem He Wrote on LSD to William F. Buckley

On September 3, 1968, William F. Buckley invited poet Allen Ginsberg onto his TV program, “Firing Line.” It was an odd encounter. “We’re here to talk about the avant-garde,” Buckley says grandiloquently. “I should like to begin by asking Mr.

Johnny Depp Recites ‘Chorus 113′ from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues

In 1995 Johnny Depp made a cameo appearance on an improbable TV mini-series called The United States of Poetry.

Vladimir Nabokov Recites His Early Poem of Transition, ‘To My Youth’

By the late 1930s the second phase of Vladimir Nabokov’s life–his period of European exile from Russia–was coming to an end. Nabokov had, over the previous two decades, built up a reputation within the Russian émigré community as a gifted writer of poetry and prose.

Rare 1930s Audio: W.B. Yeats Reads Four of His Poems

The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats was born on this day in 1865. To mark the date we bring you a series of recordings he made for BBC radio in the final decade of his life.

Allen Ginsberg Reads His Famously Censored Beat Poem, Howl (1959)

Before Banned Books Week comes to a close, we bring you Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem, Howl. The controversial poem became his best known work, and it now occupies a central place in the Beat literary canon, standing right alongside Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch.

Charles Bukowski: Depression and Three Days in Bed Can Restore Your Creative Juices (NSFW)

Pico Iyer once called Charles Bukowski the “laureate of American lowlife,” and that’s because he wrote poems for and about ordinary Americans — people who experienced poverty, the tedium and grind of work, and sometimes frayed relationships, bouts of alcoholism, drug addiction and the rest.

Studs Terkel Reads Poem ‘Blessed be the Nation’

Studs Terkel would have turned 100 years old today.


Jorge Luis Borges’ 1967-8 Norton Lectures On Poetry (And Everything Else Literary)

Like most literary geeks, I’ve read a lot of Jorge Luis Borges. If you haven’t, look into the influences of your favorite writers, and you may find the Argentine short-story craftsman appearing with Beatles-like frequency.

The Broken Tower, James Franco’s Docudrama On “Difficult” Poet Hart Crane: A Preview

Above, you’ll find a short trailer for The Broken Tower, a film about Hart Crane: candy-fortune scion, hard-drinking sexual adventurer, narrowly appreciated poet, and suicide victim at 32.

‘The Ballad of the Skeletons’: Allen Ginsberg’s 1996 Collaboration with Philip Glass and Paul McCartney

Allen Ginsberg was an unlikely MTV star. In late 1996 the Beat poet was 70 years old and in declining health. He had less than a year to live. But Ginsberg managed to stay culturally and politically relevant, right up to the end.

Robert Frost Recites ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’

Today is the birthday of Robert Frost, who once said that a poem cannot be worried into being, but rather, “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.” Those words are from Frost’s 1939 essay, “The Figure a Poem Makes,” which includes the famous passage:
The figure a poem makes.

The Animation of Billy Collins’ Poetry: Everyday Moments in Motion

The first time I saw Billy Collins speak, he appeared at my college convocation, toward the end of his years as United States Poet Laureate.

Bono Reads Two Poems by Charles Bukowski, “Laureate of American Lowlife”

Eons ago, we brought you Tom Waits reading Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Laughing Heart” in his ever so distinctive gravelly voice. Today, we’re heading to the other end of the rock audio spectrum.

Did Shakespeare Write Pulp Fiction? (No, But If He Did, It’d Sound Like This)

Imagine a high school class on the Great Works of Western Civilization, circa 2400. The teacher shows the students a selection of films by Quentin Tarantino, that exalted late-20th- and early-21st-century dramatist who worked in the medium then known as film.

Harold Bloom Recites ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ by Wallace Stevens

Literary critic Harold Bloom once called Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) “the best and most representative American poet of our time.

Kim Kardashian Gets Divorced; Salman Rushdie Writes Limerick

Perhaps you know the backstory; perhaps you don’t. This week, socialite and reality “star” Kim Kardashian announced that her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries will end in divorce.

Leonard Cohen Recounts “How I Got My Song,” or When His Love Affair with Music Began

Several weeks back, we featured Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, the 1965 film that documented the life and times of the young poet who hadn’t yet started his legendary songwriting career. Now comes a little postscript. Speaking last Friday at the Prince of Asturias Awards, Mr.


Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen: The Poet-Musician Featured in a 1965 Documentary

Look what the vintage video gods have delivered today. Filmed in 1965, the black and white documentary Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen introduces viewers to a young Leonard Cohen. Then only 30 years old (and looking a little like Dustin Hoffman), Cohen had already established himself as a poet and novelist.

Italy’s Youngest Led Head

If you liked Friday’s post, Jimmy Page Tells the Story of Kashmir, then you’ll have a little fun with this. A shorter version with subtitles appears here.

Watch Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, a 2005 Documentary

Leonard Cohen, the legendary singer, songwriter and poet, was born in Montreal, Canada, on this day in 1934. In the Book of Longing, Cohen imagines the scene:
I was born in chains but I was taken out of them. It was windy. Dried leaves crashed against the walls of the homeopathic hospital. I was alive. I was alive in the horror.

The Brief Wondrous Career of Arthur Rimbaud (1870-1874)

Arthur Rimbaud, once described by Victor Hugo as ‘an infant Shakespeare,’ burst onto the Parisan literary scene in 1870, shortly before he was 16. By the time 1874 rolled around, Rimbaud had broken the conventions of poetry and fashioned a new, modern poetic language.

Orson Welles Reads Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in a 1977 Experimental Film

Around here we subscribe to the theory that there’s no such thing as too much Orson Welles. A few weeks ago, we gave you Welles narrating Plato’s Cave Allegory, and before that the short animated parable/film Freedom River, and the list goes on.

Sylvia Plath Reads “Daddy”

What do you get for the father who has everything? How about a healthy dose of canonical resentment, in the form of Sylvia Plath’s most famous poem, read by Plath herself, from our list of Cultural Icons?
Or, if you’d prefer something that says “I love you” with a little less rancor, you might want to go with a video that

Penn Sound: Fantastic Audio Archive of Modern & Contemporary Poets

The University of Pennsylvania hosts an extensive and pretty remarkable audio collection of modern and contemporary poetry, with a generous helping of prose writers thrown in. Directed by Al Filreis and Charles Bernstein (whose U.

Gil Scott-Heron, Godfather of Rap, Rest in Peace

Gil Scott-Heron, sometimes called the “Godfather of Rap,” passed away in New York today. He was 62 years old.
Scott-Heron started setting poetry to rhythmic jazz during the late 60s and and gained fame when he recorded The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1971.

Sir Anthony Hopkins Reads Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

The great actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is well versed in the work of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas — so much so he even directed the critically lauded film Dylan Thomas: The Return Journey in 2006. Here, he is reading one of Thomas’ best-known poems, “Do not go gentle into that good night.

Poems as Short Films: Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda and More

A few years ago, the geniuses over at Four Seasons Productions began shooting evocative short films set to classic poetry. 21 finished pieces, a long list of festival prizes and a full DVD later, many of their best “poem videos” are now available to watch for free on their YouTube channel.




Dylan Thomas Sketches a Caricature of a Drunken Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas’s drinking was legendary. Stories of the debauched and disheveled Welsh poet’s epic drinking binges have had a tendency to drown out serious discussion of his poetry.
It’s a legend that Thomas helped promote, as this pencil sketch he made of himself attests.

The Poetry of Bruce Lee: Discover the Artistic Life of the Martial Arts Icon

In the final months of his short life, Bruce Lee wrote a personal essay, “In My Own Process” where he said, “Basically, I have always been a martial artist by choice and actor by profession. But, above all, I am hoping to actualize myself to be an artist of life along the way.

Record-a-Poem for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and you haven’t gotten Mom a present yet. No worries, head over to poetryfoundation.org, where you can find a selection of Mother’s Day poems – or search for your own. You can even follow the directions here to join the Record-a-Poem group on Soundcloud and then share your poem with Mom.

Listen to Recordings of Allen Ginsberg & Other Poets on Phone-a-Poem, the 1970s Poetry Hotline

Much of what we once used the telephone for, we now use the internet for. Conversely, some tasks to which the internet now seems perfectly suited were once performed, imperfectly, through the phone. Take the case of hearing poetry read aloud.

Watch the Finals of the Poetry Out Loud Competition, Live Tonight

“Having others’ poems in our minds and hearts means we’re never really alone.”
—Karen Kovacik, Indiana State Poet Laureate
Youssef Biaz, reciting here, was 16 years old when he was named Poetry Out Loud National Champion. Biaz won a $20,000 award and $500 worth of poetry books for his high school in Auburn, Alabama.

Sylvia Plath’s Poetry Becomes Experimental Cinema in 1991 FilmLady Lazarus

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
These three terse lines—with their offhandedly morbid bravado—may be the most remembered from Sylvia Plath’s body of work. The stanza pops out of the center of Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” a poem Helen Vendler once called “a tantrum of style.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

In 2001 or 2002, guitarist and singer David Gilmour of Pink Floyd recorded a musical interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18″ at his home studio aboard the historic, 90-foot houseboat the Astoria.

A Look Back at Jim Carroll: How the Poet and Basketball Diaries Author Finally Finished His First Novel

Like so many denizens of the New York that produced Warhol and The Velvet Underground, then gritty punk rock, hip-hop, and no wave, poet Jim Carroll didn’t fare so well into Bloomberg-era NYC, a developer’s paradise and destination for urban professionals and tourists, but not so much a haven for struggling artists.

Rare Audio: Samuel Beckett Reads Two Poems From His Novel Watt

Samuel Beckett was notoriously shy around recording devices. He would spend hours in a studio working with actors, but when it came to recording a piece in his own voice he was elusive. Only a handful of recordings are known to exist. So the audio above of Beckett reading a pair of his poems is extremely rare.

Dennis Hopper Reads From Rainer Maria Rilke’s Timeless Guide to Creativity, Letters to a Young Poet

For almost a century, writers and other creative people have found inspiration and a profound sense of validation in the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s posthumously published Letters to a Young Poet.


E.E. Cummings Recites ‘Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town,’ 1953

Here’s a great reading by E.E. Cummings of his famous and widely anthologized poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” The poem has a bittersweet quality, dealing with the loneliness of the individual amid the crushing conformity of society, but in a playful way, like a nursery rhyme with delightfully shuffled syntax.

So You Want to Be a Writer?: Charles Bukowski Explains the Dos & Don’ts

Here’s a quick video that serves as an addendum to last week’s post, “Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Concise Philosophy of Art and Life.

“The Me Bird” by Pablo Neruda: An Animated Interpretation

From 18bis, a Brazilian design & motion graphics studio, comes this: a free interpretation of “The Me Bird,” a poem by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Writes 18bis, “The inspiration in the strata stencil technique helps conceptualize the repetition of layers as the past of our movements and actions.

The Poetry of Abraham Lincoln

It should surprise few to learn that Abraham Lincoln wrote poetry. But this fact about his life is dwarfed by those events that defined his political legacy, and this is also no surprise. Nevertheless, in the midst of the current Lincoln revival, the man and the statesman, I think it’s fitting to attend to Abraham Lincoln the poet.

Hear Gertrude Stein Read Works Inspired by Matisse, Picasso, and T.S. Eliot (1934)

eBay prices for the album Gertrude Stein Reads Her Own Work range from $20 to $200. Vinyl purists, and Stein purists, may long for one of the still-sealed copies at the upper end of that range. The rest of us can enjoy hearing its recordings as mp3s, free on the internet courtesy of PennSound.

“PoemTalk” Podcast, Where Impresario Al Filreis Hosts Lively Chats on Modern Poetry

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Hear Walt Whitman (Maybe) Reading the First Four Lines of His Poem, “America” (1890)

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On 50th Anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s Death, Hear Her Read ‘Lady Lazarus’

In the early morning hours of Monday, February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath brought food and drink into the bedroom of her two sleeping young children. She opened a window in their room and attached a note with her doctor’s name and phone number to a baby carriage in the hallway.

French Philosopher Jean Baudrillard Reads His Poetry, Backed By All-Star Arts Band (1996)


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Anne Sexton, Confessional Poet, Reads “Wanting to Die” in Ominous 1966 Video

Many a writer has said they write to save their lives. And many a writer has died by suicide. In few cases has the connection been so direct as in that of the poet Anne Sexton.


W.H. Auden Recites His 1937 Poem, ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’

Today we bring you one of the best-loved poems of W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening,” read (below) by the poet himself. Auden wrote the poem in 1937 and first published it in his 1940 volume, Another Time. The poem is a variant of the ballad form, made up of 15 rhymed quatrains.

Watch Patti Smith Read from Virginia Woolf, and Hear the Only Surviving Recording of Woolf’s Voice

In the video above, poet, artist, National Book Award winner, and “godmother of punk” Patti Smith reads a selection from Virginia Woolf’s 1931 experimental novel The Waves, accompanied on piano and guitar by her daughter Jesse and son Jackson.

Hear Tennessee Williams Read Hart Crane’s “The Broken Tower” and “The Hurricane” (1960)

Note: Audio takes about 8 seconds to play…
Many Moons Ago, a poetry teacher of mine introduced me to the term “terminal aesthetic,” meaning a style that could go no further, having burned up all of its resources. It’s a great way to characterize the poet Hart Crane’s ambivalent appraisal of his literary forefather, T.S. Eliot.

Listen to Robert Frost Read ‘The Gift Outright,’ the Poem He Recited from Memory at JFK’s Inauguration

The reading from Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony today follows a tradition that began 52 years ago, when John F. Kennedy invited his fellow New Englander Robert Frost to read at his inaugural.
Frost was an early supporter of Kennedy.

An Animated Interpretation of Billy Collins’ Poem, “Forgetfulness”

Some twenty-five years ago, my acting class spent an entire semester on the plays of Anton Chekhov. At the time, it felt very vital, but like so much else I studied in college, what I wound up retaining is sadly piecemeal.

British Actors Read Poignant Poetry from World War I

The First World War (1914-1918) changed Britain to a degree that was unthinkable in 1914. Pre-war certainties and values such as honor, fatherland and progress disintegrated on the battlefields and trenches in France and Belgium.

18 Animations of Classic Literary Works: From Plato and Shakespeare, to Kafka, Hemingway and Gaiman

Yesterday we featured Piotr Dumala’s 2000 animation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, Crime and Punishment, and it reminded us of many other literary works that have been wonderfully re-imagined by animators — many that we’ve featured here over the years.

Watch an Animated Film of Emily Dickinson’s Poem ‘I Started Early–Took My Dog’

Today is the birthday of Emily Dickinson, an extraordinarily shy woman who rarely left her house but whose poems have gone out to meet the world.
Dickinson’s poetry is widely celebrated for its beauty and originality.

Three Interpretations of Charles Bukowski’s Melancholy Poem “Nirvana”

I’ve ridden a lot of busses–back and forth from city to city, taking the cheapest tickets, which meant traveling overnight, and eating cheap and greasy food at hurried stops along the way. I remember thinking sometimes that I might never come back, that I might lose myself in some small southern town and disappear.

Richard Burton Reads ‘Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait’ and 14 Other Poems by Dylan Thomas

When the actor Richard Burton died in 1984 he was buried, as he requested, with a copy of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas.
Burton was a great friend and admirer of Thomas, who shared his Welsh heritage and rakish demeanor. The two men also shared a love of literature. “I was corrupted by Faust,” Burton once said.


Pier Paolo Pasolini Talks and Reads Poetry with Ezra Pound (1967)

Here’s a collision of cultural figures you don’t see every day: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom director Pier Paolo Pasolini sitting down with modernist poet Ezra Pound.

Meryl Streep Shrooms Her Way Through Modern Alice in Wonderland

Beware the Jubjub bird…
Beware post-70s theatrical experimentation…
Beware a children’s classic – Alice in Wonderland, in a modern musical update …
Beware a grown woman cast as a little girl…
On the other hand, what if we’re talking about Meryl Streep? Specifically the Deer Hunter / Kramer vs.

For Sylvia Plath’s 81st Birthday, Hear Her Read ‘A Birthday Present’

Sylvia Plath would have turned 81 years old today. It’s a strange thing to imagine. Plath’s reputation as a poet is so sadly bound up with her death by suicide at the age of 30, and so many of the lines in her later poetry sound like suicide notes, that it seems impossible to picture her making it to old age.

Tune into Allen Ginsberg’s Poetry Teaching Marathon (Free Streaming Audio)


Definitely worth a quick heads up: The folks who run PennSound, the poetry audio archive at the University of Pennsylvania, have been streaming a marathon of Allen Ginsberg’s poetry classes, all recorded at the Naropa Institute during the 1970s and 1980s.

Ezra Pound’s Fiery 1939 Reading of His Early Poem, ‘Sestina: Altaforte’

In this rare recording from 1939, Ezra Pound gives a passionate reading of his early work about a warmongering 12th century troubadour, a poem called “Sestina: Altaforte.”
The poem was written in early 1909, when Pound was an ambitious 23-year-old American living in London.

Pull My Daisy: 1959 Beatnik Film Stars Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Shot by Robert Frank

Sure, you could experience the Beat sensibility on film by watching The Beat Generation.

Sean Connery Reads C.P. Cavafy’s Epic Poem “Ithaca,” Set to the Music of Vangelis

This video combines three things that make me happy: the voice of Sean Connery, the music of Vangelis (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire), and the poetry of C.P. Cavafy. Put them all together and you get a blissful soundscape of rolling synth lines, rolling Scottish R’s, and a succession of Homeric images and anaphoric lines.

Allen Ginsberg Recordings Brought to the Digital Age. Listen to Eight Full Tracks for Free

Today marks the release of the final volume in the Allen Ginsberg box set Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs 1949-1993, a collection of previously released and unreleased recordings.

Gertrude Stein Recites ‘If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso’

Although her own works are seldom read, Gertrude Stein cast an imposing shadow over the evolution of 20th century literature. Like other high modernists, she broke from tradition to experiment with new forms, but whereas her rival James Joyce’s writing became more dense and complex over time, Stein’s became abstract and simple.

Listen to J.R.R. Tolkien Read Poems from The Fellowship of the Ring, in Elvish and English (1952)

In my book Cate Blanchett can do no wrong, but her performance in the Lord of the Rings movies was particularly spellbinding, especially when she spoke the Elvish language of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe.




Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot Become Unexpected Pen Pals, Exchanging Portraits & Compliments (1961)

Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot: they’ve got to rank as one of the twentieth century’s most surprising pair of pen pals. More intriguingly still, they first got in touch — as luminaries seem to do — out of the spirit of mutual admiration.

Read Two Poems David Foster Wallace Wrote During His Elementary School Days

Some readers discover David Foster Wallace through his fiction, and others discover him through his essays. (Find 30 Free Stories & Essays by DFW here.

Read Ezra Pound’s List of 23 “Don’ts” For Writing Poetry (1913)

Ezra Pound was a key figure in 20th century poetry. Not only did he demonstrate impressive poetic skill in his Cantos; he also proved to be a crucial early supporter of several famous contemporaries, championing the likes of Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and H.D..

Read Allen Ginsberg’s Poignant Final Poem “Things I’ll Not Do (Nostalgias)”

Allen Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997. Less than a week before, after the long terminally ill poet had made parting phone calls to nearly everyone in his address book, he wrote the poem above, “Things I’ll Not Do (Nostalgias).

Jeremy Irons Reads T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (Free for a Limited Time)

(The clip above is part of the complete recording found here.)
In 1914, T.S. Eliot moved from his birth country, the United States, to England at the age of 25 and soon thereafter established himself as one of the most influential poets of this generation, writing some of the best known poems of the 20th century including The Love Song of J.

Sonic Youth Guitarist Thurston Moore Teaches a Poetry Workshop at Naropa University: See His Class Notes (2011)

It’s not unusual for introspective indie songwriters to make forays into poetry. Some do it rather successfully, like Silver Jews’ Dave Berman; some, like Will Oldham, stir up the poetry world by turning against poetry.

Patti Smith Documentary Dream of Life Beautifully Captures the Author’s Life and Long Career (2008)

My wife jokes that I’m pretentious for my love of what she calls “tiny awards” on the covers of movies—little laurel leaf-bound seals of freshness from the art film festival circuit. It’s true, I nearly always bite when unknown films come to me preapproved.

Highlights from the First Ever Stanford Code Poetry Slam

I was lucky enough to be living in Chicago when Marc Smith’s Poetry Slam movement became a thing. What fun it was to hit the Green Mill on Sunday nights to hear such innovators as Lisa Buscani or Patricia Smith tearing into their latest entries in front of packed-to-capacity crowds.

Discover William Blake’s Hallucinatory Illustrations of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

When I saw William Blake’s illustrations for the book of Job and for John Milton’s L’Allegro and Il Penseroso at the Morgan Library a few years ago, I was first struck by how small the intricate watercolors are. This should not have been surprising—these are book illustrations, after all.

The New Yorker Launches a New Poetry Podcast: Listen to the First Episode

A quick fyi: The New Yorker has just launched a new poetry podcast, and it’s introduced and hosted by Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who formerly taught poetry at Oxford. On The New Yorker’s web site, Muldoon writes:
I can’t be but thrilled at the prospect of the first of a series of New Yorker Poetry Podcasts.


Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner Animated: A Classic Version Narrated by Orson Welles; A Modern One Narrated by Many

Water, water, everywhere / Nor any drop to drink. Samuel Taylor Coleridge—poet, critic, opium addict—wrote his Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1798, a time when long poems still began with a short synopsis called the “Argument.

Discover Friedrich Nietzsche’s Curious Typewriter, the “Malling-Hansen Writing Ball”

During his final decade, Friedrich Nietzsche’s worsening constitution continued to plague the philosopher.

Bob Dylan Reads From T.S. Eliot’s Great Modernist Poem The Waste Land

As a recent piece in The Independent notes, “students of literate songwriting” are unsurprised to find references to T.S. Eliot scattered throughout the pop canon: Genesis, Manic Street Preachers, Arcade Fire… and of course, Bob Dylan.

92nd Street Y Launches a New Online Archive with 1,000 Recordings of Literary Readings, Musical Performances & More

Kurt Vonnegut once commented, in an interview with Joseph Heller, that the best audience he had ever encountered was at the 92nd Street Y in New York. “Those people know everything. They are wide awake and responsive.

Hear Ezra Pound Read From His “Cantos,” Some of the Great Poetic Works of the 20th Century

No student of modernism, no lover of modern poetry, can avoid Ezra Pound, or the problem that is Ezra Pound.

Charles Bukowski Takes You on a Very Unconventional Tour of Hollywood

The world tends to think rather loosely about the concepts of Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the motion picture industry, throwing them around, running them together, naming one when they mean another — still, nothing a bracing splash of Charles Bukowski can’t sort out.

T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” Gets Adapted As a Comic Book

Poetry is as close as written language comes to the visual arts but, aside from narrative poems, it is not a medium easily adapted to visual forms. Perhaps some of the least adaptable, I would think, are the high modernists, whose obsessive focus on technique renders much of their work opaque to all but the most careful readers.

Dissident Poet Joseph Brodsky Gives Six Life Tips to College Grads (1988)

Although Joseph Brodsky was one of the most celebrated Soviet dissidents of the 20th century, the Nobel Prize-winning poet had been unerringly hounded by the repressive Soviet government, which had labeled his poetry as “pornographic and anti-Soviet.

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Readings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

Yes, Halloween is behind us, and some people may desire a break from the Lou Reed tributes in order to mourn him silently. Fair enough. But indulge us once more, because Reed’s best music and the dark imaginative work of Edgar Allan Poe are always relevant, and when they come together, it’s reason to celebrate.

Watch Goethe’s Haunting Poem, “Der Erlkönig,” Presented in an Artful Sand Animation

Back in college, I took a fall-quarter introductory music course. We happened to have class on Halloween (an event quite seriously taken around the University of California, Santa Barbara, in case you didn’t know), and the professor held an especially memorable lecture that day.


10 Figures of Speech Illustrated by Monty Python: Paradiastole, Epanorthosis, Syncatabasis & More

Ah, the ancient art of rhetoric. There’s no escaping it. Variously defined as “the art of argumentation and discourse” or, by Aristotle in his fragmented treatise, as “the means of persuasion [that] could be found in the matter itself; and then stylistic arrangement,” rhetoric is complicated.

The Online Emily Dickinson Archive Makes Thousands of the Poet’s Manuscripts Freely Available

Perhaps the most famous of all literary recluses, despite herself, Emily Dickinson left a posthumously discovered cache of poetry that did not receive a proper scholarly treatment until the publication of The Poems of Emily Dickinson by Thomas H.

Gustave Doré’s Dramatic Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

Inferno, Canto X:

Many artists have attempted to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, but none have made such an indelible stamp on our collective imagination as the Frenchman Gustave Doré.

The James Merrill Digital Archive Lets You Explore the Creative Life of a Great American Poet

The Ouija-inspired poetry of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill (1926-1995) comes alive in a newly launched digital archive from Washington University in St. Louis.

Dewars Channels the Ghost of Charles Bukowski to Sell Scotch

In 1993, the GAP used the ghost of Jack Kerouac to help sell khakis to desk jockeys across the nation. That was odd. 20 years later, Dewars has called upon Charles Bukowski, dead since 1994, to peddle Scotch. That makes complete sense.

Allen Ginsberg Gets Heckled by Beat Poet Gregory Corso at a 1973 Poetry Reading

Gregory Corso was kind of the Joey Bishop of the Beats—a member of the inner circle of Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg, but never quite achieving their degree of notoriety. Nevertheless, he outlived them all, and he was also arguably the biggest comedian in a group of inveterate pranksters (see him crack up an interviewer in this clip).

Jack Kerouac Reads American Haikus, Backed by Jazz Saxophonists Al Cohn & Zoot Sims (1958)

In the spring of 1958 Jack Kerouac went into the studio with tenor saxmen Al Cohn and Zoot Sims to record his second album, a mixture of jazz and poetry called Blues and Haikus. The haiku is a traditional Japanese poetry form with three unrhyming lines in five, seven, and five syllables. But Kerouac took a freer approach.

Avant-Garde Poet Henri Michaux Creates Educational Film Visualizing Effects of Mescaline & Hash (1964)

You don’t need to understand French to appreciate the project. In 1964, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz (now Novartis) commissioned the Belgian writer, poet and painter Henri Michaux to produce a film that demonstrated the effects of hallucinogenic drugs.

Author Rob Sheffield Picks Karaoke Songs for Famous Authors: Imagine Wallace Stevens Singing the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning”

The poet Wallace Stevens‘ reclusiveness would have made him an unlikely candidate for karaoke, but death is a great leveler. One who’s shuffled off this mortal coil can no longer claim to be publicity shy or highly protective of his privacy.

Seamus Heaney Reads His Exquisite Translation of Beowulf and His Memorable 1995 Nobel Lecture

We were among millions deeply saddened to learn today that Seamus Heaney had passed away at age 74. Called the greatest Irish poet since Yeats, Heaney was not only a national treasure to his home country but to the global poetry community.


T.S. Eliot’s Radical Poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Read by Anthony Hopkins and Eliot Himself

T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” contains some of the most unforgettable images in modern poetry: the “pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas”; the yellow fog that “rubs its back upon the window panes”; the evening “spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table.

“Notes from a Dirty Old Man”: Charles Bukowski’s Lost Cartoons from the 60s and 70s

The poet Charles Bukowski has appeared often on Open Culture lately, and I have no objection. Not only do I savor writing about a literary figure thoroughly representative of Los Angeles, where I live, but about one who, even nineteen years after his death, keeps producing interesting things. Or at least we keep finding them.

Ernest Hemingway Writes of His Fascist Friend Ezra Pound: “He Deserves Punishment and Disgrace” (1943)

An old friend of mine and I have a code phrase for a phenomenon that everyone knows well: One learns that an artist one admires, maybe even loves, is not only a flawed and warty mortal, but also an abusive monster or worse. The phrase is “Ezra Pound.

“The Lost Paris Tapes” Preserves Jim Morrison’s Final Poetry Recordings from 1971

Billed and sold as the ninth and final studio album by The Doors, An American Prayer tends to divide Jim Morrison fans. On the one hand, it’s a captivating document of the late singer reading his free-associative poetry: dark, weirdly beautiful psychedelic lyrical fugues.

Listen to Charles Bukowski Poems Being Read by Bukowski Himself & the Great Tom Waits

The outspoken, ragged-edged poet and novelist Charles Bukowski entered our world 93 years ago this Friday, and presumably began making trouble immediately. HarperCollins marks the occasion a bit early this year by releasing today eight Bukowski audiobooks, the first of their kind. (Sign up for a Free Trial with Audible.

See Patti Smith Give Two Dramatic Readings of Allen Ginsberg’s “Footnote to Howl”

We’ve brought you some choice tidbits recently from beat poet granddaddy Allen Ginsberg, including his first recorded reading of “Howl” and a glimpse of his annotated collection of photographs. And we’ve also served up a few delicious treats from godmother of punk poetry Patti Smith, like her recounting of William S.

Bryan Cranston Reads Shelley’s Sonnet “Ozymandias” in Ominous Teaser for Breaking Bad’s Last Season

Since his improbable but riveting rise from put-upon, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher Walter White to sociopathic meth kingpin Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston’s character in Breaking Bad has come to embody all of the characteristics of an ancient despot: cunning, paranoia, the nursing of old wounds and pretensions to undeserved greatness.

Bill Murray Reads Great Poetry by Billy Collins, Cole Porter, and Sarah Manguso

Anyone calling themselves even casual Bill Murray fans — and we here at Open Culture have taken it well beyond casualness — will by now have read a number of articles on how the actor, comedian, and early Saturday Night Live alumnus has reinvented himself in the 21st century.

The Poetry of Leonard Cohen Illustrated by Two Short Films

Looking back on the literary career of Leonard Cohen—in full flower in the mid-sixties before his second life as a folk singer/songwriter—one encounters many comparisons to Joyce. For example, in the National Film Board of Canada’s description of Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr.

Charles Bukowski Sets His Amusing Conditions for Giving a Poetry Reading (1971)

It takes a special kind of dedication for a writer to quit his day job. When notably hard-living, hard-writing poet Charles Bukowski took the plunge in 1969, at the behest of his Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin, he did it in the same spirit of seriousness he’d reserved for smoking, drinking, women, and the written word.


Two Childhood Drawings from Poet E.E. Cummings Show the Young Artist’s Playful Seriousness

Click images for larger versions
Rebecca Onion over at Slate’s history blog “The Vault” has brought to our attention two delightful finds from the Massachusetts Historical Society: childhood drawings by poet and painter E.E. Cummings, made when he was 6 and 7 years old.

Hear the Very First Recording of Allen Ginsberg Reading His Epic Poem “Howl” (1956)

Occasionally I slip into an ivory tower mentality in which the idea of a banned book seems quaint—associated with silly scandals over the tame sex scenes in James Joyce or D.H. Lawrence or more recent, misguided dust-ups over Huckleberry Finn.

Listen to T.S. Eliot Recite His Late Masterpiece, the Four Quartets

Here is a complete recording of T.S. Eliot reading the masterpiece of his later years, the cycle of poems called Four Quartets.
Eliot considered the Four Quartets his greatest work. “I’d like to feel that they get better as they go on,” he told Donald Hall in a 1959 interview for the Paris Review.

Patti Smith Reads Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz” in New York City

Last Wednesday night, New York Institution Patti Smith appeared at downtown venue Bowery Ballroom with a few friends to read poetry and play some music.

Allen Ginsberg’s Personal Recipe for Cold Summer Borscht

As summer approaches, let us look to Allen Ginsberg when we we feel discouraged by our lack of bikini-body. The author of “Sunflower Sutra” didn’t shy away from having his evolving physique documented shirtless or nude. Narrow minded beauty arbiters be damned.

Tilda Swinton Recites Poem by Rumi While Reeking of Vetiver, Heliotrope & Musk

If anyone should ask you how to promote a celebrity fragrance without losing face, click play and whisper, “Like This.”
It helps if the celeb in question is generally acknowledged to be a class act. Imagine a drunken starlet emerging from her limo sans-drawers to stumble through her favorite poem by a 13th century Sufi mystic.

Hear Sylvia Plath Read Fifteen Poems From Her Final Collection,Ariel, in 1962 Recording

“Add to the available accounts of Plath (there are so many) this, please: nobody brought a house to life the way she did.” So writes Dan Chiasson in a February New Yorker piece commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death.

Watch Tom Waits, Bill Murray, and Other Modern Bards Read Some of Your Favorite Classic Poems

Long before the printing press, before parchment and papyrus, poetry was a strictly oral form. Many of the features we associate with verse—rhyme, meter, repetition, and extended similes—originated as mnemonic devices for poets and their audiences in times when bards composed extemporaneously from predetermined formulas.

Charles Bukowski Provides Narration for the 1990 DocumentaryThe Best Hotel on Skid Row

“Skid row is where people are mutilated and almost dead, they’re creeping, crawling, uncared-for creatures.”  - Charles Bukowksi
The future does not seem like much of a commodity in Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña’s 1990 documentary, The Best Hotel on Skid Row. The Madison Hotel, with its $8.

Bombing Warsaw … With Poems

Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and began a terror bombing campaign of Warsaw, the nation’s capitol. In total, the Nazis dropped some 500 tons of high explosive bombs and 72 tons of incendiary bombs on Warsaw, beginning the planned destruction of the city.
Now fast forward to 2009, and we witness (above) Warsaw under literary assault.

Allen Ginsberg’s “Celestial Homework”: A Reading List for His Class “Literary History of the Beats”

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“Argh, you’re all amateurs in a professional universe!” roared Allen Ginsberg to a young class of aspiring poets in 1977 at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Their offense? Most of the students had failed to register for meditation instruction.