The following is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is also available here.

From the issue dated January 21, 2005


Professor Establishes Repository for iPod Poetry


Alan Filreis, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, has a vision for the future of the college campus: students walking from class to class listening to poetry on their iPods.

With a new online repository, PennSound, Mr. Filreis hopes to make that vision a reality. His project collects recordings of contemporary poets reading their own work and turns them into digital "singles" available for free downloading.

PennSound's Web site ( made its debut this month and it already offers more than 1,500 recordings. The selections include a number of milestones of modern poetry, like Ted Berrigan's first reading of his famed Sonnets, and a series of recent antiwar poems read by writers at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Most of the poems on the site are recorded not as part of lengthy reading sessions but as song-length MP3's. Short recordings, Mr. Filreis explains, are inviting to casual listeners, who may not want to sit through hourlong readings, and are useful to academics, who can more easily analyze individual works by listening to them over and over.

The easily digestible recordings also give users an unprecedented chance to hear poetry in action instead of reading it on the page, says the professor. "People have been able to read a lot more poetry since the Web has been around," he says. "But in many cases, this is the first time they can hear poems being read."

For students of poetry, listening to a poem is an entirely different experience from seeing it, Mr. Filreis believes.

"I've been able to download MP3's and play them in the classroom, and what a difference it makes," he says. "As a teacher, I can step out of the way a little bit and say, 'Now, here's Allen Ginsberg.' I think it really gives the students a sense of immediacy."

PennSound, Mr. Filreis says, is the latest in a series of digital projects that have sought to expand the reach of poetry.

For several years Penn's writing center has held monthly Webcasts of poetry readings. And popular Web sites like UbuWeb ( have collected poetry readings and works of literary criticism.

Mr. Filreis says he makes sure to obtain the rights from poets to distribute readings of their works. So far, most of PennSound's recordings have come from the libraries at Penn and at Buffalo, where the site's co-director, Charles Bernstein, taught before moving to Philadelphia.

But Mr. Filreis expects that PennSound will soon be accepting recordings from more poets and academics who want to distribute their works to a broader audience.

"There's a democratic spirit to our project," he says. "Institutions with writing centers don't have to be the only places where people can get a sense of what's happening in our field anymore."
Section: Information Technology
Volume 51, Issue 20, Page A25