Over the last month, I’ve searched YouTube for all the best channels and playlists dedicated to poetry. If you’re a poetry lover who is looking to watch (or listen to) your favourite classic poems, or get reviews and recommendations for new books and exciting new poets then this list is for you.
(Of course, these channels can’t continue to grow and expand without your support, so please help them out by simply viewing their videos and subscribing to their channels. Without that support, the majority of channels end up dying off before they ever really had a chance to grow into something great. We don’t want that to happen to any of the channels that feature in this list.)
Hopefully I will be able to update this list on a semi-regular basis to provide information and recommendations on new channels as they grow and evolve.
Note: This part of the list does not include any playlists or channels that only feature a single poet’s work. Those types of channels are becoming more common, but I personally haven’t seen enough of them to make any solid recommendations, or at least feel like more of them need to build more substantial back-catalogues before I can recommend them. The following recommendations are for people who want to hear or read classics, or to discover a range of new poets and works. They all include a variety of poets and styles, or reviews and recommendations to point you in the direction of some exciting new works (plus warnings about titles to avoid), so these should include something you will enjoy, and hopefully find helpful:
Graveyard Poetry is a channel hosted by Zither P. Oxblood, who delivers dramatic performances of classic poems. The videos are simply Oxblood delivering the readings from a quiet cemetery (as the channel name suggests). The channel aims to make poetry more accessible and understandable for everyone, by taking it out of a stale classroom setting and emphasising the meanings through the hosts’ delivery. It is a really enjoyable channel and one where you can listen to a wide range of classic poetry, so it is highly recommended for any and all poetry lovers.
Ours Poetica is a channel produced with the help of the Poetry Foundation, and has a great selection of videos where poets read their own works and classics, and has some additional playlists where you can choose to listen to some poems arranged by subject. The videos are well produced, and the range of poets means that there will be something among these videos that everyone can enjoy.
Word Spoken Podcast hosts videos of their episodes on their YouTube channel, where guest poets perform selections of their works, discuss the stories and meanings behind them, and talk about their experiences of performing and sharing their poetry. You can listen to the poems on their own if you just want to hear some exciting new poets from the UK, or you can listen to the full episodes to hear all about the poets and their backgrounds etc.
Spoken Verse is a channel full of classic poetry readings by the channel owner, Tom O’Bedlam, who has a fantastic gravelly voice which works really well for reading classic poetry. Although not updated for a few years, there are a lot of videos where you can read the poem along with the host, and you can select playlists of specific poets to hear some of their best and most famous works. Listen to poems by Pablo Neruda, Wallace Stevens, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, John Betjemen, Walt Whitman, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Bukowski and many more. Whether you’re a longtime poetry reader or a newcomer who wants to browse some of the classics, then this is a channel worth checking out.
Rattle Poetry is a channel produced by the Rattle Foundation, which is an organisation who promote poetry as an art form in a variety of ways. The channel includes weekly episodes of the ‘Rattlecast’ – a podcast hosted by Rattle magazine editor Timothy Green, where he interviews poets about all aspects of their work, their writing process and thoughts on poetry in general, as well as having them read and discuss some of their poems. The second half of the show is then given over to various poets in an open-mic format, who each read a couple of their own works. It is a great way to discover some new poets and really get a feel for their work and their personalities.
Button Poetry is an American organisation dedicated to promoting spoken word and performance poetry, and they have been one of the most consistent uploaders of poetry content on YouTube for nearly ten years. The channel hosts videos of spoken word performances by a wide range of poets, with poems covering almost any subject you could care to think of. They have featured some well-known names in modern poetry, like Neil Holborn, Danez Smith, Brenna Twohy, Rudy Francisco and Jared Singer. This is a great channel for listening to modern poets read their work, so that you can discover some incredible talents and just experience a bit of variety. I have personally ended up adding several books to my collection after discovering the poet’s work for the first time on this channel.
ThePoetrySociety is a channel that regularly uploads spoken word poems from young poets around the UK. They are the group behind the UK magazine, The Poetry Review, which has been in publication since 1912. It’s a shame they didn’t continue their 2016 series of videos called Page Fright, where they had spoken word poets reading classic poetry and performing pieces of their own, but even so there is a lot of great poetry being performed on the channel that makes it one to watch. With the number of projects and initiatives that the group run, it would be especially great to see them branch out and diversify their content to cover their competitions, community work and initiatives – such as if they have videos of their conferences on Poetry and Psychoanalysis, or making a series out of their Places Of Poetry project or their extensive educational resources.
Muddy Feet Poetry is a channel which is dedicated to spoken word poetry, and features individual readings of poems and a weekly showcase called That Awesome Poetry Show where three poets are featured, each doing a reading of one of their works. A great channel for discovering some exciting new poets and to hear some excellent works being performed.
Write About Now is a Poetry Slam and spoken word channel based in Texas that features a wide range of modern poets from the United States. New videos are uploaded all the time, so it is definitely worth subscribing to this channel to hear some exciting young talents perform. You can check out playlists of specific poets, or videos of various poets at larger events, like the Texas Grand Slam or Utah Arts Festival etc. There are also a couple of playlists for specific topics or areas of interest, such as Suicide Prevention Poems, Feminist Poetry, and even Slam Poetry For Classrooms – For Teachers And Students.
Bowery Poetry is a spoken word channel based in New York City, featuring videos from open mic nights and readings from modern poets. Since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown, their website and YouTube channel have been hosting an exercise where, as a community, poets have been co-writing a Ghazal – which is an ancient form of poetry, written in self-contained couplets. You can read about the project here. There are plenty of videos to watch between now and when lockdown finally comes to an end, and then the channel will be returning to their regular content and providing more New York based spoken word performances.
Da Poetry Lounge is a channel for spoken word poetry performances from the open mic nights at the Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles, USA. Obviously the worldwide pandemic stopped new video releases in 2020, but the channel is still going and has a great back catalogue of spoken word poetry performances, with some interviews and other content thrown in for good measure.
Toronto Poetry Slam and Vancouver Poetry House are both full of spoken word poems from Canadian poets, and have extensive back catalogues of videos that will keep you entertained and introduce you to a wide range of spoken word poets who you may not have heard of before (along with some familiar names in the spoken word scene).
Unfortunately, speakeasynyc is one of the many dead channels that make it hard to compile a list like this, because ideally I want to recommend as many current channels as possible so that you know where to go for new content. Even so, the back catalogue of 363 spoken word videos on this channel makes it a worthwhile playlist to include for anyone who wants to listen to some great poetry performances. It includes some big names in modern poetry, like Sarah Kay, Ocean Vuong, Andrea Gibson, Phil Kaye, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Tracy K Smith, so while there aren’t any new videos coming out, it’s still worth watching the playlist to get better acquainted with some outstanding poets and their work.
Some more channels like this, who have stopped uploading for the last few years but still have some really great videos you can watch in their back catalogue include Poetry Slam Inc, and the UrbanaPoetrySlam channel. The latter only has 130 videos, but they’re both definitely still worth a listen/watch, even if it would be pointless to subscribe to the channels.
Gwendolyn Kensinger is a BookTuber with really eclectic reading tastes, including fantasy, horror, thrillers, graphic novels, poetry, and a lot more. Her poetry recommendations and reviews are always detailed and balanced, going into the details of what she did and didn’t respond to in the books, which poems in particular spoke to her or what aspects of the books were particularly memorable, and gives enough information about the content and style for you to be able to decide for yourself if the book will appeal to you. I’ve personally added a lot of books to my shelves (and shopping list) based on Gwendolyn’s videos, including the very beautiful (but pretty hard to find) Hi Lady, & Other Random Thoughts by Max Smith, which I probably never would have heard of otherwise. If you are on the lookout for new poetry books to try, this is a great place to start.
You can also find channels that give more readings of poetry, reviews and further book recommendations in the first installment of these articles – The Best YouTube Channels & Playlists – Part 1 – For Readers AND Poets – where I list all the best channels that have diverse content that will appeal to all lovers of poetry, whether you write your own or not.
Thank you for reading. If you know of any other channels or playlists that deserve to be a part of this list, please let me know on social media so that I can check it out and add it. Thanks again.