You probably know about YouTube as a source of entertainment, how-to information, etc. Have you thought of it as a writer's resource? There are a few ways I can think of it as useful to us, but for this post, I'll focus on YouTube as an archive for video/audio of lectures and readings.
Writers frequently give "readings" -- they are invited somewhere ( a college, a bookstore, or some other venue) and read selections from their works. Sometimes, they also lecture on their art; also, they give extended interviews, usually on their influences, their craft, their politics, their live stories, and other matters. There are also a few films about writers and their lives, their times, and their work. Finally (and for this, see some of my posts from last Fall 2009), there are feature films about writers, or -- of course -- films based on their works (even, though rarely, on poems, as opposed to novels).
For now, I will share some YouTube videos of writers reading (and, as often happens at readings, talking about their craft and inspiration).
You can, of course, simple search YouTube (or Google) using any writer's name; but if you search YouTube itself, there are always suggested, related videos on the right. That's one good way to explore and discover new writers. Try that with some of the suggestions I make here.
Also, listen and look at the way writers read their works. Some are terrible at it! Others are very instructive as to how their works, or how poetry and prose, should sound out loud. (By the way: practice reading your own drafts out loud, or reading what you like of others' works out loud, as a way of hearing what's there that silent reading doesn't reveal.)
Kay Ryan, former Poet Laureate:
I highly recommend Ryan as a good poet to start with -- she's accessible, amusing, and brief -- but her poems are highly crafted, and explore the edges and interconnections of words and meanings.
Ok, this is mainly for the audio; but listen carefully! Carver was a modern master, brilliant with language, and courageous in his characterizations.
Young is a prolific poet, and his poems -- in books that are amazingly long for poetry books these days -- are deeply inclusive, rangy, fluent, amusing or moving, and embracing. Sometimes, as a kind of parlor game, we can ask whether a poet is more "Whitmanesque" or "Dickinsonesque" -- read Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, and see what you think (and yes, it's a trick question).
Unfortunately, there aren't so many good YouTube videos of Cisneros reading (some, though, offer us her thoughts on writing); there are good videos elsewhere, and later, we'll explore non-YouTube video & writing resources.
A weird camera angle; but a typical sort of literary event, with a good reading presentation from a solid prose stylist and storyteller.
This takes us back a bit: digitized video of older analog film. This combines Sexton reading with documentary.
"Howl" was a classic work of the fifties and sixties: the flagship of the Beat movement.
Slam poetry! -- perhaps a different category from "literary" poetry, but let's not be too picky; on the other hand, how is this different from, say, T.S. Eliot? I can guess which one makes us happier, but -- it's worth our while studying the differences and similarities. What, of these two choices, can be combined for something new...?
...maybe Ms. Coleman shows one way -- literary, fun, lively, well-made, loud!
Tom's an old teacher of mine. Topical poetry! -- note, in particular, how as one goes through the world (driving on the highway, in this case), there are occasions for poems everywhere.
There's much, much more. There is also a lot on YouTube, though, that's BAD -- mainly, I mean the videos themselves: remember, it's everyone who wants to post something (well, with some editorial oversight, I guess) -- so sort the good from the bad: bad production values, in particular. But listen to how poetry and prose come alive when seen and heard, and take those insights back to the page with you.