Radio 3 has a long tradition of broadcasting and commissioning poetry and has built up a rich archive of poets reading their own work. It has now created The Poetry Library from which poems will be taken and broadcast on the network. The library is made up of poems from the archives, poems recorded for Radio 3 by many of the greatest modern poets and poems on the theme of music, that were suggested to us last year by our listeners.
In the coming weeks listen out on air for occasional lyrical masterpieces, from poets included in the list above. Or come back here to browse The Online Poetry Library. Some of the poems are included for listening below and the collection will continue to grow steadily over the coming months.
Christmas Landscape by Laurie Lee
Laurie Lee's prose, especially the evocative Cider With Rosie has overshadowed his poetry. But many think the poems, in which he describes nature with simple brilliance, his finest work. He was an accomplished reader of his work with acute melodic and rhythm sensitivity. Like Thomas Hardy, a poet he resembles in some ways, Lee was fine fiddle player.Listen to the poem, read by the author
Hymn to God My God in My Sickness by John Donne
This poem was suggested by listener Christine Kirkby, who wrote: " Superb imagery and logical reasoning blend into a moving devotional poem with the line 'I shall be made thy Musique' particularly poignant". The powerful idea in the first stanza, of the poet at his death becoming God's music, begins a poem of striking imagery and complexity. It was written by Donne shortly before he died.Listen to the poem, read by Harriet Walter
Sonnet 128 by William Shakespeare
This poem was suggested by listener Chris Amery who wrote: "Shakespeare is failing to concentrate on the music when the object of desire is playing the piano for him. He gets distracted." . The sonnet is like a piece of music in itself, beginning with the expression of an idea - that playing a musical instrument, physical affection and sex are akin - developing and discussing this within a strict form, before coming to a neat conclusion.Listen to the poem, read by Harriet Walter
The Fiddler of Dooney by W.B. Yeats
This poem, written by Yeats in 1899, was suggested by listener Eleanor Dent who wrote: "I am an Irish Catholic and a musician by training and agree with the sentiments in the poem." Yeats represents the direct simplicity of the character of the fiddler in the form of the poem. But what the fiddler asserts - the goodness of music and the moral superiority of the musician over the priest - is a more radical and complex idea.Listen to the poem, read by Michael Pennington
An Exciting and Challenging Opportunity by Martyn Wiley
This recording is taken from an edition of Poetry Now broadcast in 1987. Martyn Wiley, from Barnsley, was a prolific poet and an energetic performer. For years he worked with fellow Barnsley writer - and now presenter of The Verb on Radio 3 - Ian McMillan, creating poetry that is serious as well as entertaining. He died, aged only 40, in 1994.Listen to the poem, read by Martyn Wiley, taken from a BBC archive recording
The Invisible Mender by Sarah Maguire
Sarah Maguire first appeared on Radio 3 in the late 1980s in the poetry series 'New Voices' and since then hers has become a familiar voice on the network, as a reviewer - particularly of cinema - as well as a poet. This is the title poem of her second collection, which is much concerned with identity and the fact that she was adopted. It was recorded for 'Best Words' in 1997.Listen to the poem read by the author
The First Music by Elizabeth Jennings
This is a poem by Elizabeth Jennings, who died in Oxford in 2001. It is read by Harriet Walter. Rosemary Luff, one of the listeners who wanted to hear this poem, admires it as a 'profound comment on our senses' appreciation of music'. The poet suggests that our appreciation of music somehow enables us to make sense of the world, that music patterns the hullabaloo of creation.Listen to the poem read by Harriet Walter
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