Part of poetry’s magic lies in it being a time capsule, with simple lines on a page, “a fragile chariot” according to Emily Dickinson, scudding the reader across a soul from long ago. But many of us associate Wordsworth, Shakespeare or Hardy with joyless A-Level textbooks. Learning these poets by rote is hardly conducive to connecting with poets who were straining to break from convention and the hum-drum. But poetry read aloud, with archaisms smoothed out by the cadences of the human voice, is true resurrection. “Truly fine poetry must be read aloud,” said Jorge Luis Borges. “If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.”
Poetry was of course once designed to be solely oral, Beowulf was recited by bards as an evening’s entertainment.