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Is Poetry Enhanced or Diminished with Music?

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

“Autumn Passage” sans music (mp3, 1:12)
"Autumn Passage" with music (mp3, 1:49)

Poet Elizabeth AlexanderFor this week’s exercise, we’re interested in hearing your preference. The two audio clips above feature Elizabeth Alexander reading her poem "Autumn Passage": the first version pairs her poetry with music and the second without. Does the added production enhance her reading of the poem or does it interfere with your experience? Why is that?

If you heard our interview with the poet in "Words That Shimmer," you might have noticed there was a mix of poems highlighted with music, while others were left unadorned. This sparked a discussion among our staff. Some, especially the long-time Alexander fans, preferred the poetry to stand alone, while others felt the music brought the poet’s words and reading style to life and added to the experience.

Ultimately, we decided to offer you both versions of all eight poems on our website — her poems with and without music — which you can download as mp3s.

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