The best podcasts for stories, fiction and poetry
The best story and poetry podcasts including short stories, readings of fiction and real-life dramas, selected and updated by Pete Naughton
Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of his then girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999
By 5:45PM GMT 14 Jan 2015
Created by the team behind , Serial is an innovative, gripping and artfully constructed weekly podcast that’s been topping iTunes’s charts on both sides of the Atlantic since its debut in early October. Presented and executive produced by the journalist Sarah Koenig, it’s a real-time investigation of some murky inconsistencies in a real-life murder case: namely, that of a Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee, who was killed in 1999 and whose ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, is currently serving time for her murder — even though there are some compelling arguments for his innocence.
Close on twenty years ago, the American poet and novelist George Dawes Green set up a New York-based storytelling group inspired by the languorous summer evenings in his home state of Georgia, where people gather on porches, amongst dozens of fluttering moths, and shoot the breeze. It soon gathered momentum, spreading to other cities and expanding to include a variety of live events, a radio show and this fantastic podcast. Each episode features one or more storytellers recounting an episode from their own life in front of a live audience; participants range from the famous (Salman Rushdie, Annie Proulx, Malcolm Gladwell) to the unknown — and they almost never fail to hold the attention.
Combining the hard-boiled atmosphere of crime serials on American radio in the Forties and Fifties with the goofball comedy of the Naked Gun films, this podcast series is sure to please anyone with a love of the PI genre. It follows the exploits of Mike Detective (voiced by the Amereican actor and comedian Rob Huebel), an unlicensed, uninsured and expletive-prone private eye, as he embarks on a variety of strange, ill-fated and often hilarious cases, further enlivened by cameo appearances from Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis and Henry Winkler. Episodes clock in around the five minute mark; and I can particularly recommend the eleventh episode, Lucky Number Seven.
Recorded in front of a live Californian audience, this charming, sharply written series playfully replicates the style of old time American radio shows, with recurring drama segments (Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock), musical interludes, and ads for fictionalised products like Patriot Cigarettes and WorkJuice Coffee.
Made by an award-winning radio producer called Nate DiMeo, this spellbinding series presents a small, perfectly-formed story in each episode. Topics range from a miraculous celestial array witnessed by an American astronaut and the terrifying day in 1848 when Niagara Falls stopped falling to the social history of the lobster — and, amazingly, they’re all true. Also available via .
Some years ago, the journalist and author Anthony Holden noticed that certain poems had a mysterious capacity to draw tears from otherwise dry-eyed men. “There’s an anthology in this,” he thought, and now – with assistance from Holden’s son Ben and in association with Amnesty International – there is. This lovely video podcast, recorded at the National Theatre, features poetry readings by a handful of contributors to the book — including Ian McEwan, Simon Russell Beale, Ben Okri, and Melvyn Bragg.
Growing up I remember trying to leap from my bedroom door to my bed frightened of a crocodile I imagined lurked beneath, once in bed I worried about the imminent Russian invasion and the threat of nuclear war. I was delighted to be born in 1959 a female, so I would not have to go fight in the trenches, tanks or similar. It would seem every generation has it’s own crocodiles that patrol our mortality.
What fearful scenarios invade our children’s imaginations today? Faceless and masked terrorists, Ebola, famines, global warming, environmental catastrophe to name but a few. It has become difficult to form allegiances to support and to address such issues when there are so many; we become ‘war weary’ and tend to bury our heads in the sand.
Fifty years on it is still difficult to address some of these issues. I now imagine a crocodile on my ceiling as an escape from some of the harder realities of life. Is it any more comforting to know that the mortality rate attributed to the common cold or flu is significantly higher than those who have sadly recently died through Ebola, 500,000 flu deaths a year world wide, perhaps more alarmingly 1.24 million die each year world wide from car accidents.
How do we culturally and ethically address such issues without injecting fear into the veins of the mass population by media hype? Should we stop reading the news or approach such matters obliquely. Personally I try to do the latter confront the evidence or research and repackage it in away that is digestible to my own sensitivities. Through a curious visual language often exploring metaphor and myth.
If the science, or “truth’ gives us fact and evidence to solve questions, art creates curiosity. It asks questions rather than gives answers, creating space for ambiguity, new narratives – and more questions. Importantly art allows a viewer to think for themselves as a conduit the work offers the viewer scope to fill in the missing gaps and engage in a new narrative the work might evoke- thus creating dialogue, new responsibility and new potential ownership of an idea.
It is five hundred years since the Wunderkammer housed a united field of interdisciplinary enquiry, in an age before disciplines became separate under museums of science, nature and art. Fifty years ago CP Snow’s lecture on ‘Two Cultures’ mourned such separation; Edward O Wilson’s recent call echoed the desire for consilience of disciplines through a unity of knowledge.
Perhaps through a reunification, of art, science and nature, exploring a curious even subversive gaze we can confront the sceptical and represent the undeniable evidence of our trajectory through wonderment and engaging visual narratives to reflect upon our actions.
Like the crocodile under my bed these fears and realities may or may not exist but may remain mythical in their effect. We have to confront the issues of the world we inhabit, it is with what gaze we wish to communicate our enquiry, which is of interest to me.
Curiosita- Pewter, Leather, Vegetable Ivory Whale, Teeth, Eye Shell and Claws
With technological advancement of the democratised access of the Internet perhaps we can now facilitate worldviews exploring our natural curiosity through creativity and the rational. Now in the 21st century, we can investigate and explore a global dialogue between art, science, and our environment through collaborative partnership in context of current ethical debate.
- Pewter, Pearls Teeth, Horseshoe Crab Carapace