Hearing a poem read aloud reveals its rhythmic, melodic, and alliterative qualities, which can help you discover whether or not poetry is, ultimately, the music of language. As you reacquaint yourself with the emotions kindled by being read to by a parent, teacher, or lover, you may even discover for yourself the relationship between poetry and song.
Often, hearing an author read their own work can clarify questions surrounding their work's tone; some poets are grave, some are antic, some are even more mysterious than you imagined. Many poets offer explanations and anecdotes surrounding their poems, so to hear a whole reading is often as enlightening as taking a course in a poet's work. Recorded archives of poets reading their own work allow later generations to have this experience with great poets that are no longer with us—an important act of preservation that maintains this unique relationship between the visual identity of a poem on the page and the sonic identity of a poem read aloud by its author.
Recordings of readings allow you to listen to poems in private. Additionally, the convenience of recordings allow you to repeat poems that you love or that seem difficult to absorb. There are many great archives of recorded poetry available for sale, one of which is distributed by the Academy of American Poets. Listen to clips of readings by Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others with Poets.org Audio. Stop by the Poets.org Store to purchase copies of the recordings on CD.