Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine Voices: reading the poetry of love

“Instead of whispering sweet nothings on Valentine's Day, let the Poetry Archive send sweet somethings for you.” Joanna Lumley

Today, Wednesday 10 February 2010, the Poetry Archive and The Times Online will launch Valentine Voices, a wonderful collection of 40 poems to enthrall, entertain and beguile lovers everywhere. Available on The Times Online, Valentine Voices features a list of love poems read by celebrity readers and poets, which can be sent as a unique gift to your Valentine’s mobile phone.

Those looking to wow their lovers on Valentine’s Day can pay for Jude Law or Keira Knightley to do it on their behalf, with their wonderful recordings of Lord Byron’s She Walks in Beauty and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Love's Philosophy. Also included amongst the 40 luminous readings are Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Joanna Lumley, Alan Rickman, Rosamund Pike, James Earl Jones, Stephen Fry, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, Ronan Keating and Daniel Radcliffe. Poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Wendy Cope and Pam Ayres, who are already featured on the Poetry Archive, also read their own works.

The idea, conceived and created by Rockabox Media, is a simple one: visitors to can browse a list of poems read by well-known names before sending a poem to their beloved’s mobile phone. Each poem will feature a sample recording and, once chosen, can be sent with a personal message from the sender, to arrive on the recipient’s phone on Valentine’s Day.

Andrew Motion, Joint Director of the Poetry Archive and former poet laureate – whose poem On the Table is also featured - comments:

“Valentine Voices is a piece of serious fun. By allowing people to send beautifully-read love poems to their beloved, it spreads the enjoyment of poetry in general, helps to raise money for the further development of the Poetry Archive, and makes a perfect present for Valentine's Day. We at the Archive hope that it will become an annual event - and a big part of the global carnival.”

With every poem sent, a contribution will go to the Poetry Archive, a not-for-profit organisation. The Archive, launched a little over four years ago by Richard Carrington and Andrew Motion, is an online collection of poets reading their own work.
Its aims are to make sure that important voices are preserved, to stimulate the teaching of poetry in schools and to develop the general audience for poetry.
Since its launch, the Archive has grown fast and its regular monthly audience is almost a quarter of a million people, who every month listen to roughly 1.25 million pages of poetry. Contributions from Valentine Voices will go towards preserving the existing health of the Archive and developing it in the future.

Readings included in Valentine Voices:

Alan Rickman: Upon Julia’s Clothes and Delight in Disorder by Robert Herrick

Andrew Fusek Peters: The Passionate Pupil Declaring Love

Andrew Motion: On the Table

Carol Ann Duffy: You

Daniel Radcliffe: Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare

Helen Farish: Look At These

Helen Mirren: Wild nights! Wild nights! by Emily Dickinson and To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet

Ian Duhig: From the Irish

Ian McKellen: The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by Christopher Marlowe and Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Jackie Kay: Her

James Earl Jones: A Birthday by Christina Rossetti and Love not me for comely grace… by John Wilby

James Fenton: In Paris with You

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze: Could it be

Jenny Joseph: The Sun Has Burst the Sky

Joanna Lumley: What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why… by
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Jude Law: She walks in beauty… by Lord Byron, Rondel of Merciless Beauty by Geoffrey Chaucer and Oh Mistress Mine, Where are you Roaming by William Shakespeare

Judi Dench: How do I love thee? By Elizabeth Barrett Browning and The First Day by Christina Rossetti

Keira Knightley: Love's Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Kenneth Branagh: To a Stranger by Walt Whitman

Michael Longley: The Pattern

Mimi Khalvati: Ghazal

Pam Ayres: Yes, I’ll Marry You My Dear

Patrick Stewart: To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

Romola Garai: Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

Ronan Keating: Is It a Month? by J. M. Synge

Rosamund Pike: Sonnets from the Portuguese iv by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Oh! Death will find me… by Rupert Brooke, Remember by Christina Rossetti and If thou must love me…by Elizabeth Barratt Browning

Samuel Menashe: O Many Named Beloved

Simon Callow: Sonnet 61 by William Shakespeare

Stephen Fry: Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Wendy Cope: Flowers


Tony said...


Valentine Voices is a great idea! If you like it you may also like the Poem Flow application developed by TextTelevision in partnership with the Academy of American Poets (

Its visual as opposed to oral.

Visitors choose a classic love (or desire) poem and add their own dedication and a four line 'cover'. It is then transformed into a unique flowing animated movie that can be shared online.

The result is a truly moving tribute that has to be seen to be understood!



The Reader said...

Interesting idea. I'm not sure if (if I were in a relationship) I would want to subject my beloved to celebrity culture on a commercialized holiday full of pressured professions of love.... Much better to read out the poem myself, in person, when we both felt the time was right.

The Reader
I'm a Bookworm