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Council on Aging Department

Posted on: October 6, 2020

Listen to Recordings of Allen Ginsberg & Other Poets on Phone-a-Poem, the 1970s Poetry Hotline

"Much of what we once used the telephone for, we now use the internet for. Conversely, some tasks to which the internet now seems perfectly suited were once performed, imperfectly, through the phone. Take the case of hearing poetry read aloud. Today, online poetry resources are readily available; you can hear a variety of poets reading their work with a few well-directed clicks of the mouse (see our list below). But in 1976, you'd have had to rely on Phone-a-Poem. Operated out of Cambridge, Massachusetts by poet Peter Payack, the hotline offered readings by his well-known colleagues, including Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Donald Hall, Charles Bernstein, Forrest Gander, and Anne Waldman. Payack mailed these famous poets blank cassettes to fill with poems and then return; into Payack's answering machine the tapes would go for eager dialers to hear automatically played back. “I gave the average person a chance to hear a poem, and if they didn’t like it, they could just hang up,” Payack said to the Harvard Gazette's Colin Manning. “Usually, if you wanted to hear the poet’s voice you had to go to poetry readings, which can be intimidating. But this allowed people to hear the poet’s voice in their own home, so it wouldn’t be intimidating.”"

Charles Bernstein, "Phone Poem" https://soundcloud.com/harvard/charles-bernstein-you-have?in=harvard/sets/soundbytes-phone-a-poem#t=0:00

Anne, Waldman, "Gossamumur" https://soundcloud.com/harvard/anne-waldman-gossamurmur?in=harvard/sets/soundbytes-phone-a-poem

Allen Ginsberg, "Eight Haikus" https://soundcloud.com/harvard/allen-ginsberg-eight-haikus?in=harvard/sets/soundbytes-phone-a-poem

C.A. Conrad, "Frank Knows a Butterfly" https://soundcloud.com/harvard/c-a-conrad-frank-knows-a?in=harvard/sets/soundbytes-phone-a-poem#t=0:00

Allen Ginsberg, "Written in My Dream" By William Carlos Williams https://soundcloud.com/harvard/allen-ginsberg-written-in-my?in=harvard/sets/soundbytes-phone-a-poem#t=0:00

Gabriel Gudding, "This space around my body..." https://soundcloud.com/harvard/gabriel-gudding-this-space?in=harvard/sets/soundbytes-phone-a-poem

There are also hundreds of free audio books from authors such as Twain, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Orwell, Vonnegut, Nietzsche, Austen, Shakespeare, Asimov, HG Wells and more available here: http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks

Original Article on Open Culture
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