This article considers the design of poetry within the UK National Curriculum for English, where it is conceived of primarily as a print-based medium. With reference to curricular detail, the recent Ofsted survey of poetry teaching in schools, and to original research, it describes the role the existing curricular conception of poetry can play in influencing practice, sometimes to the detriment of listening. It posits a conception of heard poetry that makes reference both to the New London Group's term ‘lifeworld’ and to T.S. Eliot's ‘auditory imagination’, synthesising the two. It presents data arising from pupils' responses to heard poetry in the classroom, in the form of Conversation Analysis transcripts, using these to illustrate the nature of the research and its interpretive work. The article then presents a summary of the findings of the full study, concluding with their implications for curricular detail. The curricular conception of poetry, it contends, is inadequate, failing to acknowledge the oral tradition in poetry, with subsequent implications for pupils' engagement and understanding of poetry in classroom-based poetic encounters.