Woodberry Poetry Room Comprehensive Recording Collection

One of the largest collections of literary recordings in the U.S., featuring over 6,000 recordings of poets and writers from the 1930s to the present day.
Christina Davis

The Woodberry Poetry Room's collection of literary recordings comprises more than 6,000 A/V recordings of readings, lectures, interviews and performances (1933 to the present). The recordings are central to the Poetry Room's on-going mission to create a "library of voices" at Harvard.


Harvard Vocarium disc by T.S. Eliot



Reel to reel featuring Sylvia Plath recording, 1959.
Sylvia Plath reel with holograph liner notes, 1959

The archive's founding collection is the Frederick C. Packard, Jr., sound recordings, featuring the pioneering Harvard Vocarium record label (1931-1955). One of the earliest poetry record labels in the world, the Vocarium produced some of the first poetry recordings by T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth BishopRobert Lowell, Marianne Moore, and Ezra Pound.

After the Vocarium era came to a close, the Poetry Room continued to actively record 20th century literary innovators: as a result, the collection includes some of the earliest extant recordings of Ralph Ellison, Audre Lorde, Vladimir Nabokov, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, and Wallace Stevens.

The Poetry Room's recording collection has also consistently sought to document the Boston-area literary community, including recordings of Boston Renaissance poets Stephen Jonas and John Wieners and oral histories focused on such New England authors as Robert Creeley, Helene Johnson, and Charles Olson.

Through its popular programming series, the archive continues to grow to this day, with recent readings and recordings by Amanda Gorman, Alice Notley, Claudia Rankine, and Ocean Vuong, and a new LP collaboration with Fonograf Editions. 

Audre Lorde at Fassett Studio, 1970 (Fonograf Editions, 2023).
Audre Lorde at Fassett Studio, 1970 (Fonograf, 2023)

In addition to its Harvard-created recordings, the Poetry Room houses the sound archive of the Academy of American Poets (1963-2004), the Aspen Writers' Conference recordings, and a range of recordings produced by 20th century recording companies, independent studios, and radio stations around the world — including Argo, Broadside Press, Casa De Las Américas, Columbia Workshop, Credo, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Radio Eireann.

According to Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney, the Poetry Room's collection is "indispensable: it contains not only the voices — from different times of their lives—of the greatest poets, but constitutes a living history of modern poetry."

Accessing These Materials

To browse our collection of literary recordings, visit the HOLLIS catalog. You may also search the catalog for specific formats: sound recordings and videos.

In addition, a large selection of our recordings can be streamed via our Listening Booth and YouTube channel

To request a copy of a recording that is not available online, we encourage you to submit a scholarly-use copy request or to schedule an in-person visit (appointments are required). If you need a transcript for accessibility purposes, please contact us.