Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Let's All Record Our Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month

Poetry Foundation, those nice people who let me pick a glorious poem to share with you every week or so, have started a group at SoundCloud which lets you read your favorite poem into your computer's microphone, then upload it for others to share. There are loads of glorious ones you can listen to for inspiration. We'd love to have a strong Hairpin turnout for this worthy endeavor.

Now, the hard part: who on earth can choose their favorite poem without surrounding themselves with eighteen books and paging through them into the small hours of the night? Okay, probably lots of people. Me, my favorite poem is probably Ted Hughes' "Rain-Charm for the Duchy", but it's like, nineteen pages long and is mostly just listing the names of rivers. I'd need a water break halfway through. Maybe Philip Larkin's "Deceptions"? Jorie Graham's "What the End Is For"? Linda Gregg's "Looking For Each of Us"? So many choices. Too many!

Okay, how about you? And can you post a link in the comments to yours once it's up?

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Mine would be very short, since my favorite poem (currently) is Margaret Atwood's You Fit Into Me. I actually am woefully undereducated re: poetry, although when I was younger I made efforts to memorize Carroll's Jabberwocky and Poe's The Conqueror Worm and could probably still recite them on command (well, definitely with Jabberwocky, maybe with Conqueror Worm).


Save me...❤ :)@m


I will bet money that my favorite poem is already there somewhere, because my favorite poem is the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which apparently everyone loves.

Edith Zimmerman

@Scandyhoovian Yeah that's my favorite, too.


@Scandyhoovian Everyone loves it because it's the bestest. I get so excited whenever someone decides cuffs are in again for mens pants, because I get to declare "ROLLING MY TROUSERS!" before leaving the house, and it is so fun.


@Edith Zimmerman You sound great! And somehow just became 1000x more real in my head--weird what voices do.

(I just uploaded a Sharon Olds poem, aiee, let's see when it goes up.)


@Edith Zimmerman Edith, that was ABSOLUTELY LOVELY. Thank you for a nice Prufrock break in my afternoon!

Nicole Cliffe

@Edith Zimmerman EDITH.

lucy snowe

@wallsdonotfall I love Sharon Olds. Which one did you choose?


My poetry education is sorely lacking, but I have always relished Philip Lopate's "We Who Are Your Closest Friends."


@VolcanoMouse But no, what about Charlotte Mew's The Call? Because obviously that is best.

Judith Slutler

@VolcanoMouse Ahahahaha, thank you for introducing me to "We Who Are Your Closest Friends." IT EXPLAINS SO MUCH


@VolcanoMouse Wow that poem is so fantastically the perfect answer to "is everyone hanging out without me?"


My favorite poem (as someone who knows very little of poetry in general) is Let America Be America Again (slightly ahead of Harlem), but I'm afraid I don't have the voice to do a recording of it justice : / <3 u, Langstonie


Okay, mine is "Spring and All (I)" by William Carlos Williams. But I really want to record my great-aunt doing "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, because she memorized it at the age of 8 and can still recite it nearly 80 years later.

Ragged But Right

@cuminafterall PIED BEAUTY PIED BEAUTY! Best poem ever. You MUST record that! My grandmother could do the whole of The Burial of Sir John Moore at Curonna and I never recorded it, and I will always wish I had.

Priscilla Peel

@cuminafterall Pied Beauty and Spring and All! I love both of those poems, especially to read right now as spring is finally getting here. Also William Carlos Williams' Love Song.


@cuminafterall HOPKINS 5EVA


@cuminafterall I love Gerard Manley Hopkins which is odd because I am not religious and don't really have much interest in nature. I hated Ted Hughes for ruining my A Levels by banging on about bloody nature the whole time (sorry Nicole). But GMH is lovely. Goldengrove is my favourite - and the Windhover.


Poemectomy by John Dickson: http://snd.sc/11gSIpa


I am definitely not going to participate in the recording party, because 1. I hate how my recorded voice sounds (I KNOW, okay? Vibrating bones. I already know) and 2. Garrison Keillor has already recorded one, so [throws self away], but I am willing to rant frothily about some poems right here in the comment section. Ready?

Meditation at Lagunitas (Hass), Casabianca (the Bishop, OBVIOUSLY, also, pretty much any Elizabeth Bishop, although I feel very conflicted about my simultaneous love for lesbian poets [Ellen Bass 5EVA] and how hard I ship her and Robert Lowell).

Also, I was talking to a friend about, you know, changing my life, and I actually said "I don't mean to get all 'Archaic Torso of Apollo' on you, but..." because I'm LITERALLY a MONSTER.


I've said this on here before, but I have such feels for Margaret Atwood's "A Sad Child."

Here is Atwood herself reading several of her poems, 'A Sad Child" is the fifth one down.


Ragged But Right

Seamus Heaney's 'Closing Time' and Hughes's 'Little Frieda and the Moon'.
Or! Hopkins's Pied Beauty, but that's a bugger to read. Or wait, O'Hara. Stevie Smith. Hang on...*disappears into bookshelves, doesn't come back*

Ragged But Right

@Ragged But Right *...reaches the Emily Dickinson section, pulls up chair...*


I love love love "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. I could cover my body with tattoos of her words. Her poems are breathtaking.


@tmsteele2000 Ugh I love that poem so much! She is so fucking SASSY. I just wanna strut my ass down the street like it's a catwalk after I read it.


@hallelujah Right? When she gets to the part about having diamonds at the meeting of her thighs? Go girl! There's a lot of pain in her poems, but also? So much sexy sex. Not shy, that one. She is all woman. Love her.


I'm so poorly educated about poetry and I would never record one, but I love "Advice to a Prophet."

Ohhh, and "The Firebombing" by James Dickey.


@Mira Forgot a link to "The Firebombing." It's a harrowing read.


@Mira I'm so glad you brought up James Dickey because Th Sheep Child is my favorite poem ever and I give no bothers as to what that might say about me


Hands down, my favorite poem of all time is "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams.


@dtowngirl ilu WCW.

Judith Slutler

I am pretty into Theodore Roethke's "The Waking" is that corny of me


@Emmanuelle Cunt No that is a great poem, I don't even know why that would be corny!! My fav Roethke is always I Knew a Woman (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172104) -- (I measure time by how a body sways) UGH.

Erin Fletcher@facebook

I recorded a .wav on my phone of myself reading the Marina Tsvetayeva poem whose first line is "What is this gypsy passion for separation" buuuuuut... my phone is not emailing it to me; I think in order to do this I have to have a computer microphone and record through soundcloud (which, if that's true, is really limiting...); and I tried to listen to Edith reading Prufrock but Firefox Flash player was out of date, so I updated Flash but it still won't play.

Just letting everyone know that a lurker tried and was thwarted at every turn.

Also the better one to read would have been "We shall not escape Hell, my passionate sisters". But it's a lot longer.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

I love "Splittings" by Adrienne Rich.


lucy snowe

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose That's a good one.


Are there any rules about qualifying poems?

ETA: Never mind being vague: do the poems have to be in English? (I don't mean to sound pretentious, I swear! It's just that the one I'm thinking of is SO much better in its original form!)


Song by John Ashbery!!! (is not necessarily my favorite but it is my favorite TODAY)

quamquam vivit

What a charming recording!

lucy snowe

@quamquam vivit I agree.
You must have an honest-to-goodness microphone at your computer station. Or maybe you work in a cathedral? :)

lasso tabasco

My favorite poem is German! Corona by Paul Celan. I would record it but, like, nobody would listen to it? Hollaback, German speakers!


@lasso tabasco This is my thought, too. My favorite is Russian. Maybe I'll just go read it to myself :(


@lasso tabasco I will listen to it!


@lasso tabasco I'll listen!


Why does everyone think they are poorly educated about poetry? I think it seems like it's this intimidating thing and you're not allowed to like what you like and you need to be fancy. Psshaw!

Check out poemhunter.com (All the good websites are somethinghunter dot com, am I right?? Uh, anyway.) Blow off the rest of the workday and get to reading. You can start with the top 20 or do a search or whatever floats your boat!


@tmsteele2000 I don't know, I'm normally all "whatever, Imma do me" but poetry is very intimidating to me even though I've actually read a lot of poetry. It's kind of like modern art - I know what I like, but then I immediately think "...but is it okay to like it? Is it actually good?" I just don't have enough of a frame of reference for it, or something.

That is a silly way of thinking about it, though, now that I've written it out!


@tmsteele2000 I was noticing that, too, and I relate to it because I feel undereducated, especially about modern poetry. But we should all try to get over this feeling because poetry is literally one of the best things there is.



I have tons of favorites - including "Prufrock" of course - but Matthew Dickman's "Trouble" always kind of gets me where I live. Also a huge fan of Timothy Donnelly.


The one that I come back to again and again (especially in times of loss) and copy into notebooks and think lines to myself while I brush my teeth etc etc is No. 19 from Jim Harrison's Letters to Yesenin. (Here: http://christophercitro.com/2011/10/18/a-poem-by-jim-harrison-from-letters-to-yesenin-1973/ )
I also love "The Glass Essay" by Anne Carson, though hesitate to read it aloud because of its length.


Living In Sin is my favorite -- maybe I'll record it!
I quote the ending to myself pretty much all the time.


I attempted to go for 'song of myself' but due to maybe having a little too many drinks last night, i sounded like a 90 year old. um, i guess i'll try again later.


I have lots of favorites. Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas. Prufrock, obviously. In terms of poems read aloud, though, you guys MUST listen to this recording of Richard Burton reading Gerard Manley Hopkins' The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo:


Kenneth Koch's "Talking To Patrizia," always: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15593


Whenever I'm talking to my friends about poetry they come up with the most marvelous things, and then I trot out my favorite Adrienne Rich poem, or "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", or "Ozymandias", and then my friends cough and say, why yes, I've loved that ever since the first time I read it in the third grade.

But! I know one good poem that I think is an exception to my lame-and-obvious rule. It was in the New Yorker a few years ago. I still have the magazine it was in, but there's no way to find it online if you're not a subscriber. Is the Poetry Foundation particularly concerned with copyright? I guess the only way to find out is to record it and see if it goes up. Now I just need a microphone because I don't think my phone will cut it.

quamquam vivit

wee, small brave thing of the day: "Shiloh" by Herman Melville https://soundcloud.com/jenhc3


I have always loved Wallace Stevens' poem "This Solitude of Cataracts."
A link: http://firstknownwhenlost.blogspot.com/2011/07/this-solitude-of-cataracts.html


Ooooh, Meditation at Lagunitas, by Robert Hass is my favorite, but a couple of people have already recorded it.


One of my favorites is "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen. I just uploaded it: Dulce et Decorum Est

quamquam vivit

@Ophelia YES. You do it justice, and I like your voice.


@quamquam vivit Aw, thanks!

lucy snowe

@quamquam vivit I agree. Well done!

Ragged But Right

@Ophelia Lovely!


@Ophelia Ooh good choice! I have an unreasonable love of sad WWI trench poems.

lucy snowe

Okay, I did it.
"The Two of You" by Czeslaw Milosz.
I don't think it's posted yet.

This is fun!

lucy snowe

@lucy snowe Oh! I guess I could just link to the recording. Duh.
"The Two of You" by Czeslaw Milosz. Read by lucy snowe.


"Tintern Abbey" by Wordsworth. Always my favorite, and it always makes sense, no matter how old I have gotten.


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