Follow Harriet on Twitter

About Harriet


Poetry podcasts, online resources, oh and introducing Canada a wee bit more

By Sina Queyras

There may not be much poetry to read on my iPod, but there is a lot of poetry to listen to. So, if you’re a gym rat, you can take a variety of poetic journeys ranging from recorded readings, to discussions of poetry, to lectures. This is the upside to all of our technological upheaval. At least one of them. I’ll offer a few of my favourite regular podcasts, and highlights.

Poem Talk with Al Filreis can be very good, and sometimes for rising one’s blood pressure as you want to argue with readings the guests offer (or how they offer). Among my favourites, a discussion of one of Stein’s Portrait’s got my blood boiling (and apparently Marjorie Perloff’s blood boiling as well as she wrote a recent essay titled “Abstraction and ‘Unreadability’ in Gertrude Stein’s Portraits: The Case of Christian Bérard”). How can you say this is “not a portrait”? How can you say the portraits are simply portraits of Stein? If that’s the case every portrait is simply a portrait of the portrait taker given that they choose the how and why of the creation of the portrait… But yes, there have been very good discussions, particularly of Rae Armantrout. You can subscribe to it via iTunes.

Avant-Garde All the Time with Kenneth Goldsmith is chock full of amazing finds. Particularly the two recent “women of the avant-garde” with offerings such as “Turtle Dreams” from Meredith Monk, a Lydia Lunch flashback, a young, young, Patti Smith, balladeer Helen Adam. Some excellent new finds for me include Judy Dunaway, a woman who composes for the rubber balloon (I’m serious, see photo of Dunaway above). Louise Lawler’s bird calls using the names of male artists as she walked home in the New York of the 1970s. Very funny and haunting. Strange sound poetry including recordings of sounds you probably never want to hear (Lauren Lesko). You probably have heard of Laurie Anderson, of course you’ve heard of Yoko Ono, but have you heard of Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad? Goldsmith’s podcasts are total discoveries. More extensive archives can be found on ubu.web of course.

BookWorm KCRW with Michael Silverblatt: there are great interviews in this archive, both fiction and poetry, including Frank Bidart, John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Ron Padgett and this week, Patti Smith. Silverblatt is a generous and engaging interviewer with quite a diverse range of guests–and lots of poetry!

Speaking of poetry–did you know that the Dodge Festival has its own youtube channel? Jane Hirshfield, Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, CD Wright, Jorie Graham…a huge resource.

Penn Sound is an even more amazing resource if you don’t already have that bookmarked. They have some excellent series to download including a fabulous discussion from the Philly Talks series between Steve McCaffery and Lisa Robertson. Other highlights include a recording of Alice Notley’s reading in November 2006 (among other audio resources, amazing). And Ron Silliman–yes we read his blog, but have you read his poetry lately? Or heard him read? (I have been making my way through The Alphabet and am quite astonished and wondering why we aren’t hearing more about his work.)

Need I remind that the Poetry Foundation is responsible in part for several of the podcasts above, and that there is also a podcast of the magazine? Daily poems, Poetry lectures** and more?

I wish I could offer you similar Canadian resources but we are not quite up to speed with our online presence north of the border. You can find Canadian poets on PennSound though–and I highly recommend listening to NourbeSe Philip, Susan Holbrook, Nicole Brossard, and of course, Christian Bok. There is an audio file featuring Erin Moure from the recent IN(TER)VENTIONS: Literary Practice At The Edge conference at the Banff Centre for the Arts*.

Rattling Books has some very good audio files that you can buy, including readings of Don McKay, Mary Dalton and John Steffler. There is also a must-have audio version of Mavis Gallant’s Montreal Stories that will transport you to a very specific and compelling version of Montreal, the stories lasting all the way from Montreal to Toronto and back.

The Griffin Poetry Prize site is gathering an archive of brief readings of all the poets (Canadian and International) that have read over the years including Robert Bringhurst, Ken Babstock, Kevin Connolly, Dionne Brand, and a rare reading by Margaret Avison. These aren’t podcasts, but you can hear/see them read.

CBC, the mothercorp here in Canada, has a great digital archive available on line. You can find interviews from people such as Jane Jacobs, Joan Crawford, Yoko and John’s bed-in, Alice Munro, young and green Iggy Popp and a fiery interview with Larry Zolf and Germaine Greer.

CBC offers one major literary show in Writers & Company, but while the weekly show has had some strong interviews over the years, it features international, and usually very well known writers, rather than Canadian writers, and includes little innovative work and almost no poetry whatsoever unless the poet has written a novel (as in the case of the incredible Sherman Alexie and Dionne Brand). The lack of diversity in the line-up is disappointing: Canada is a country with a thriving diverse poetics and at a national arts programs level, we seem to do little to introduce these excellent and diverse voices to audiences… There are several excellent CBC podcasts (Ideas, As it Happens) though sadly, not for poetry.

For the iPhone Canada’s National Film Board app is a must. You can download films–and there are many, many shorts worth seeing here–for free.

It’s a grassroots effort then in Canada. In Vancouver the Kootenay School of Writing is building quite an online resource too. No podcasts yet, but there is an audio file page under development, and in Ottawa, Arc Poetry Magazine is developing podcasts. A new program out of Vancouver called Booksontheradio has appeared on the scene and John Herbert Cunningham in Winnipeg has been interviewing poets on his show “Speaking of Poets” on CKUW, a local radio station. He has archived the interviews online and they can be downloaded too.

Of course once I hit publish I’ll remember another resource–or you will. I hope you’ll add those below.


* For those who don’t know about the Banff Centre, and for some reason musicians and artists seem to be more familiar with it outside of Canada, the Writing Studio has become an essential step in the career of literary writers and is open to international applicants. Highly. Recommended. Particularly this one.

** Strange and wonderful lectures from Barcelona here including Donna Haraway and Vito Acconci (podcast) and Jan Zwicky at the European Graduate School talking about lyric thinking (video)

Comments (13)

  • On March 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm Amanda wrote:

    other Canadian resources:
    rob mclennan’s blog, where he reviews and discusses a variety of (mostly)poetry and interviews folk thru his 12 or 20 interviews:

    Poetics.ca which is full of interesting interviews and essays:

    and there are a bunch of essays on poetry and other topics over at my own site: http://www.angelhousepress.com

  • On March 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm Sina Queyras wrote:

    Thanks Amanda, those are great.
    Though to be fair I am trying to get at audio and podcast here. Do you know of any resources for such that I have missed?

  • On March 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm Colin Ward wrote:


    I think Youtube may play a pivotal role if poetry is to experience an upswing in popularity. For example, if anyone wanted to show why or how poetry thrives in hispanic cultures these five words/videos might suffice: “Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejìas”.

    I assume most have seen Sonnet XVIII sung by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Amazing Grace discussed by Wintley Phipps. For some Canadian content, check out this rendition of The Cremation of Sam McGee by “Urgelt”.

    If you’re into cliché collages, there’s Lost Generation, a reverser by “metroamv” (Jonathan Reed), and the hypertextual Elegy for Eva [Cassidy] by some obscure Canadian poet.


  • On March 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm Amanda wrote:


    Authors Aloud:

    Toronto’s Art Bar Poetry Series records their readings:

  • On March 7, 2010 at 12:46 am Sina Queyras wrote:

    Thanks Colin, Amanda. I had no idea about the Authors Out Loud site. Nice job whoever does the Art Bar blog, though I personally was unable to actually access any of the readings. Great visuals.

    Yes, best not wait for anyone else to start building an online presence. We have no Poetry Foundation in Canada. Sadly.

  • On March 7, 2010 at 1:17 am Iolanthe wrote:

    Thanks for these recommendations! I will have to dip my toe in the Canadian poetry scene.

    I enjoy “Poems For the People” by Mischa Willett, available on iTunes. He has a great reading voice and excellent taste in both contemporary and classic poetry.

    I know what you mean about “Poem Talk.” As a plain old person with a day job who just happens to love poetry, I find the discussions to be very academic and “inside baseball” and not accessible to the lay listener. Sometimes, though, (usually when I’m just about to finally unsubscribe) it can be very enlightening.

    At the risk of sounding like a suck-up, the best poetry-related podcasts out there (and I am a voracious consumer of podcasts) are all produced by the Poetry Foundation: Essential Poets, Poetry Off the Shelf, the monthly Poetry Magazine podcast, the Daily Poem and the Poetry Lectures are all terrific. The hosts of Poetry Off the Shelf and the Poetry Magazine podcasts are notable for being able to get across a sense of the fun and joy and freshness and surprise still to be found in contemporary poetry.

  • On March 7, 2010 at 2:04 am Vivek N wrote:

    Many thanks for the tip on the Donna Haraway lecture! Off to download it.

    Archive of the Now is a great British site that often gets left out: http://www.archiveofthenow.org/home.html

    UC Berkeley’s lunch poems and Holloway reading series are always worth catching and nice mp4 downloads for the ipod(video): http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=F4020C68C86A5393 and http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=482F31AA0F048B92

    You might take it for granted, but I was thrilled when the bp nichol archive got started up: http://www.bpnichol.ca/browse/content/all/all

    I wish I could offer you Indian resources, but we are really underdeveloped on that. For now here’s an mp3 of K Satchidanandan reading a metrical poem in Malayalam: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/mbrs/master/salrp/01703.mp3 which is from this badly annotated Library of Congress page: http://www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/delhi/salrp/ksatchidanandan.html which has links to other South Asian writers as well.

    P.S. re. Penn Sound, I always listen to Filreis’ podcasts because they provide useful entry points into the intimidating vastness of Penn Sound: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/podcasts.php (that Richard Sieburth Poundian Sound Editor one (#10) is just to die for).

    By the way, one of my all time favourites at Penn Sound is Ed Dorn’s highly entertaining and polyphonic performance of Gunslinger. I downloaded the one he did for S press–he gets most of the way through the book, singing the ditties and doing all the accents: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Dorn.php … though, if you’re reading along, it gets irritating when his 1976 version diverges from the most recent text edition!

  • On March 7, 2010 at 9:51 am Al Filreis wrote:

    Thanks for the shout-outs, Sina. We at PennSound are really committed to the recordings of Canadian poets. And there’s a lot more to come – especially in the coming year. We are also hoping to host some recordings made at the recent Banff gathering. Glad you like the Rae Armantrout episode of PoemTalk and presumably a few others. As host of the Stein session, you’ll not that I asked my PoemTalkers twice about the poem as a kind of portrait of Berard, and in doing so gave a quick biographical interpretation of Berard in the poem. So if asking questions can constitute an interpretive assertion, I hope that gets to count as making that point. But of course I can’t coerce my PoemTalk guests–and they were fabulous that day (Rothenberg, Perelman, LeeAnn Brown)–into reading the poem against their wishes! The thing I’d note about PoemTalk is that we try most of all to do accessible readings, in just 25 minutes, of difficult poems. Not an easy task but, as it turns out, a huge amount of fun.

  • On March 7, 2010 at 9:53 am Al Filreis wrote:

    Thanks for sticking with PoemTalk. Feel free to write me at AFILREIS [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to make specific suggestions for improvement.–Al Filreis

  • On March 7, 2010 at 10:00 am Sina Queyras wrote:

    Hi Al,
    It’s not a bad thing to get one’s blood boiling. I find it refreshing actually, to hear very different interpretations. And what Poem Talk does very well is model the kinds of intense readings one can have of a poem, not to mention the various ways in to a poem. Another favorite is the Jaap Blonk segment.

    Looking forward to the Interventions/Banff recordings. Wish we had a Kelley Writers House, and you, in Canada, Al.

  • On March 7, 2010 at 10:06 am Sina Queyras wrote:

    I’ll check out Willet. It’s true, sometimes the discussions can be difficult to follow, but on the other hand I learn a lot from listening to poets grapple with the work themselves. The readings are usually quite generous and though it does get my heart racing, in the end that’s good exercise for it. The balance is difficult to strike: one doesn’t want to be bored, and one does want to be challenged and discover new ways of thinking and reading poetry.

  • On March 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm Sina Queyras wrote:

    How could I have failed to include iTunes University? For instance:
    and many other lectures, etc.

  • On March 10, 2010 at 9:55 am Steve wrote:

    Thanks for this list, Sina.

    Just want to add Poems Out Loud to the list. The poetry website from W. W. Norton includes audio recordings from many of Norton’s poets and more are added every week. The recordings are also available as a podcast via iTunes.

Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, March 6th, 2010 by Sina Queyras.