This list of poetry audiobooks is sponsored by Penguin Random House Audio.
Poetry is at its best when it’s read aloud, and if you can’t make it along to a poetry slam, poetry audiobooks are a great way to discover new poets, or hear your old favourites in new ways. There are a huge number of poetry audiobooks out there – here are some of my favourites.
The Nation’s Favourite Comic Poems
by Griff Rhys-Jones
This is the audiobook that got me into listening to poetry. My mum got the CD many, many years ago, and I remember listening to it in the car on the way to school, with all of us cracking up at poems by everyone from Pam Ayres to Benjamin Zephaniah. With a wide range of famous and lesser-known poems, this audiobook will keep the whole family entertained, no matter how long the car journey.
Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers
This audiobook contains 54 poems in a chorus of different voices that make up a fictional community in Harlem. Based on Myers’s own memories of growing up in Harlem, this collection also features music by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and others, and looks at day-to-day life, the Civil Rights movement, and other important points in Harlem history. Each voice is distinct and evocative, bringing the audiobook alive.
She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox
Charly Cox posted her first poem on Instagram in 2017, and 2018 saw the debut of her first volume of poetry, She Must Be Mad, where she explores womanhood, coming of age, modern society and social media, and, of course, mental health. Read by the author in her open and honest style, this audiobook is a great listen for anyone who’s felt a little out-of-step with the world around them.
Growing up on Third Rock from the Sun means I have a soft spot for John Lithgow, so I was stoked when I found out that he had edited a collection of his favourite poems – and even more excited when I found out that the audiobook version was narrated not only by Lithgow, but by illuminaries such as Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and Glenn Close. This book is a great introduction to poetry, read by some consummate performers, and is a great listen.
The Carrying by Ada Limón
Ada Limón’s latest collection has been described as ‘her most powerful yet’, and for good reason. It’s not a casual listen – her poems deal with grief, infertility, aging and sadness – and yet there’s a strong thread of hope and resistance running through the collection that is ultimately uplifting. Read by Limón, this audiobook does full justice to the beauty and frankness of her poetic style.
Poetry Please by Adjoa Andoh and Anton Lesser
This is an audiobook that escaped from a radio programme – and not just any radio programme. Poetry Please is BBC Radio 4’s flagship poetry show, dating from 1979, making it the world’s longest-running poetry broadcast. This collection of the most popular poems from Poetry Please is read by two regular guests from the show, actors Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones) and Adjoa Andoh (Doctor Who).
If these poetry audiobooks have whetted your appetite, find more new poets to read with 24 Poems About Family and Its Utterly Unique Bonds, or Native American Poets You Need To Read Right Now.