It’s strange hearing poets read their works because their voices sometime intrude on our own version of the poems we read. Yet poetry is a spoken art, and certainly we can learn from listening to the poet read aloud his or her poem. The pauses, the lingering assonance, the click of alliteration, all these things give us clues to not only how the poem can be read and its meaning–but to the poet’s craft.
Poet’s.org is a wonderful website for listening to master poets read their works. It’s audio archives contain over 800 readings, lectures, and symposia (not to mention print archives of over 500 poets). One reading that I like in particular is Robert Lowell reading “Skunk Hour.” Lowell was a troubled poet who suffered from mental illness. But he was also brilliant, full of emotion, and a wonderful reader.