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Long-Silent Voices of Poets Recovered with IRENE

NPR's WBUR covers the story at the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard


 Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard

NEDCC’s IRENE system recently recovered rare audio recordings of major poets for the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University. The Woodberry holds over 6,000 recordings on a range of media that span the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection is one of the largest poetry-specific sound archives in the world.




This glass-based lacquer disc is in an advanced stage of delamination.


Some of the Woodberry Poetry Room’s audio collections have been digitized and the audio is now available on their website. However, Curator Christina Davis had kept aside the rarest recordings on aluminum or glass-based lacquer discs, several of which were damaged or in advanced stages of delamination.



Researcher Mary Walker Graham and Curator Christina Davis listened to the recovered audio for the first time, and share their reactions with WBUR reporter Curt Nickisch.


These early recordings include one-of-a-kind readings by Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Randall Jarrell, and Robert Frost, among others.

Unwilling to risk damage by transferring the audio with a stylus, Davis kept them safe – though silent.

Then along came IRENE.


WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station, covered the story:


Woodberry Poetry Room Mary Walker Graham and Christina Davis

Woodberry Poetry Room Curator Christina Davis and researcher Mary Walker Graham
follow along with texts as they listen to the recovered audio for the first time.