"Every time you listen to another person reading out a poem, in school or on a stage or in a studio, every time you read a poem aloud to yourself or in the presence of others, you are also reading it into yourself and them. Voice helps to carry words farther and deeper than eye. These recordings maintain a tradition of oral performance that is as old as the art of poetry itself."
Seamus Heaney on Poetry and Performance
The Josephine Hart Poetry Hour, founded by the novelist (Damage, Sin, The Truth About Love) and poetry anthologist Josephine Hart, has presented great poetry read by great actors for the past seven years at the British Library. During the events Josephine introduced the life and work of each poet as, like Eliot, she believed that ‘we understand the work better when we understand something of the poet’s life.’ Sadly, Josephine passed away suddenly in June 2011 but her family, friends and the British Library are committed to carrying on her pioneering work of bringing poetry in performance to a broad public audience.
Two books, Catching Life by The Throat and Words That Burn, accompanied by CDs based on the readings, have been published by Virago. The former, funded by Josephine Hart, was, with the cooperation of the British Library, sent into all UK secondary schools. Selections from both CDs now appear on this website.