10 Great Actors Reading Beautifully Soothing and Stirring PoemsApril 23, 2020
Poetry can be a tonic in testing times, especially when it's read by someone who can really bring the words to life. Here's a selection of wonderful poetry read by some equally wonderful wonderful actors, including some which are being recorded on a daily basis to make quarantining just a little bit easier.
Fiona Shaw reads T.S. Eliot
The Killing Eve actress has a real gift for reading poetry; she won rave reviews for her epic solo performances of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land on Broadway and in the West End. Excerpts aren't too hard to find on YouTube – check out this performance Shaw gave on the BBC's Newsnight program a few years ago.
Alan Rickman reads Laurie Lee
The late, great Alan Rickman recited Laurie Lee's World War II poem The Long War for the Peace One Day project in 2009; it's every bit as spine-tingling as you'd expect.
Sir Patrick Stewart reads Shakespeare
The much loved actor has challenged himself to read one of William Shakespeare's Sonnets every day during his quarantine, and he's sharing the mellifluous results on Twitter. There are 154 to get through, so he's unlikely to run out any time soon.
David Tennant also reads Shakespeare
The Doctor Who favorite read what is the probably the most famous Sonnet of all – #18, featuring the oft-quoted line "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." – for a 2012 iPad project. Fans will be glad to hear that he uses his native Scottish accent.
Noel Clarke reads Keith Douglas
The Doctor Who alum gives an incredibly powerful recital of Keith Douglas's "How to Kill" as part of Channel 4's Remembering World War I project. You can watch him reading another war poem, this time by John Agard, for the project here.
Samuel West (and friends) read various poems
West (Mr Selfridge, The Crown) is reading at least a poem a day during the coronavirus crisis: you can make requests on his Twitter, then hear the results on Soundcloud. There are already more than 100 to check out, including classic verses by Lewis Carroll, John Keats, and Maya Angelou, and West has also arranged and shared readings from fellow thesps including Eddie Redmayne and his mom Prunella Scales.
Benedict Cumberbatch reads Carol Ann Duffy
You can find audio recordings of Cumberbatch reading various poems on YouTube, but this clip lets you see him in action too. The actor is a distant cousin of 15th century monarch Richard III and portrayed him in 2015's The Hollow Crown, so he was a natural choice to give a reading at the King's 2015 reburial service. The U.K.'s Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy wrote a poem called "Richard" especially for the historic occasion.
Olivia Colman reads Charles N. Whittaker
The award-winning actress supported Holocaust Memorial Day in 2014 by recording a new poem about the Auschwitz concentration camp written by Charles N. Whittaker. As you'd expect, it's a deeply moving listen.
Dame Helen Mirren reads Tennyson
When Mirren appeared on The Late Show a couple years ago, Stephen Colbert asked her to read excepts from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's classic mythological poem "Ulysses." Mirren's passionate recital is so moving that it brings the host to tears.
Thandie Newton and Noel Fielding read Adam Mansbach
New York author Adam Mansbach described 2011's Go the F**k to Sleep as a "children's book for adults" – it's tongue-in-cheek, very funny, and definitely relatable for new parents. If you've had a testing day looking after the kids, this recording of Mansbach's poetic text by Thandie Newton and The Great British Baking Show's Noel Fielding should provide some light relief.
Which other of your favorite actors would you love to hear reading poems?