31 December, 2012

Favourite Sites: The Poetry Archive

I thought I would do a series of blog posts over the next months describing some of my favourite sites and how their content enriches my life.

The first site I would like to mention is The Poetry Archive.  The site started out as a archive where you could hear poets read their works and has expanded over time into something quiet remarkable.

Initially, I went to the site with the vague hope of rediscovering the innocent pleasure I experienced listening to poems as a child. My school days did a fair job of making sure I thought reading poetry a highbrow, but torturous activity. Something best left to scholars. I hoped to change this perception.

What I discovered was, if I can read the poem while listening to the poet speaks it, I understand the musicality, the magical nuances of the words in surprising ways. Poetry is no longer inaccessible, but tangible and fantastical all at the same time.

What started out as just a happenstance visit to the site developed into a true friendship. I go there to heal myself from the miseries of my overly busy life, to study the works of my favourite poets, or just to randomly explore the poems depending on my mood of the moment. It is possible to find poems by themes (such as belief, eden, islands, neighbours, or shipwreck) or forms (haiku, short, songs). Sometimes, on a whimsy, I just put in any old word that mind in the search window and the archive usually comes up with a poem for me to listen to.

It is through the search window that I discovered Jackie Kay talking in Old Tongue about the yearning she feels to go back to her young self, her authentic self. She dreams about speaking the same language she spoke as a child, before she grew up and away from her home and neighbourhood in Glasgow.

I fell in love with her poems. She speaks with a voice that mirrors so many of the unspoken words in my heart.

It is also possible to listen to an interview with Ms. Kay. Her advice about how to create an environment and structure to encourage your writing to go well, is particularly insightful.

There are separate pages on the site for teachers, students, children, historical recordings, and guided tours. The guided tours are guides put together by poets or famous people who are poetry lovers and want to share their favourite poems.

As one of my favourite poets of my childhood A.A. Milne once said,

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It's flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn't keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if i stopped holding
The string of my kite
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes...
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

A. A. Milne, Now We Are Six

So, let your kites fly with The Poetry Archive and discover where the wind goes...


  1. What an absolutely great idea for a blog series, and thanks for reminding me of the poetry archive - I definitely need to spend some quality time there this year. It's a wonderful archive. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series of posts!

  2. After I say thanks, I shall run over there and see who I can find.

    So glad to see you blogging.Great idea for a topic.