New Penn station spins all the lit

The University of Pennsylvania has launched an online radio station that plays nothing but poetry, 24/7. The automated Internet radio stream draws from a vast digital archive of author recordings.


For years, PennSound has offered its archive of more than 30,000 recordings as free downloads. The audio preservation project of Penn’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing actively hunts down recordings lingering in basements and attics of poets reading their own work.

The recordings go back 75 years, and include T.S. Eliot, Robert Creeley, and John Ashbery.

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The Internet stream draws from that archive like an automated radio station, with playlists devised chiefly by staff member Steve McLaughlin.

McLaughlin and director Al Filreis have long harbored the idea of a constant stream of poetry, but it only became viable with the widespread popularity of smartphones with Internet access.

“The habits that have been formed by the iTunes generation,” said Filreis. “People on lunch breaks, at their desks, balancing their checkbooks have on in the background some kind of Internet radio. Or streaming a basketball game from another state.

“We want to offer PennSound Radio as a way to listen to poetry. I listen to poetry in the shower now,” he said.

The round-the-clock poetry stream includes some decades-old programs created for terrestrial radio (“Ceptuetics,” “In the American Tree”), original programming (“Close Listening”), and mostly tracks of poems read by their authors, played back-to-back. All the hits that click.

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