2009 Poetry Speaks Boxed Calendar
(Poetry Speaks Experience)
â€“ Dominique Raccah
Poetry Speaks, Expanded
An Enthralling Experience
|Kathryn Atwood (Midwest) – See all my reviews|
Although poetry was read, recited and memorized by entire families through the 19th century, during the 20th century it fell out of general popular favor. “Modern” poetry was considered too difficult for the average reader, so while it was read in schools and adored in academia, it moved out of the family parlor and into the anthology.
Enter the latest edition of “Poetry Speaks.” Seeking to make a new connection with potential readers (and listeners) of 20th century poetry, Sourcebooks has again assembled a package that is at once enthralling and educational. Each poet (47 in all) featured in the volume receives a biography, an extremely readable analysis of the poet’s work and several key poems. Some of the “chapters” also include a fascimilie of a poem or section of a poem written in the poet’s own hand.
The outstanding feature of “Poetry Speaks, Expanded” is, of course, the set of CDs which feature each poet reading their own work. This, aside from being extremely exciting for those of us with a bit of familiarity with a particular poet, also sheds some interesting light on the poems themselves. Who knew, for example, that Tennyson meant to emphasis the word “rode” in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (as in: “into the valley of death RODE the six hundred) or that Gwendolyn Brooks’ “we” of “We Real Cool” was a barely audible syncopated beat in her famous poem?
But the real thrill is that by listening to the poets read their beautiful poems, one gets a window into their very souls. Carl Sandburg sounds Swedish (who knew?) and musical, Robert Frost sounds weary, Sylvia Plath sounds bitter, Edna St. Vincent Millay sounds actressy, Dorothy Parker sounds melancholy, Jack Kerouac sounds cool (which is obviously to be expected from the author of “On the Road,” but his beloved jazz music playing in the background helps!) and Robert Browning sounds, well, inaudible, but kudos to Sourcebooks for including him and several other 19th century poets — they’re a bit scratchy but, aside from Browning, basically audible. While listening to Dylan Thomas, one wonders if his absolutely gorgeous voice had something to do with his immense popularity, since he gave extensive readings of his work during his short lifetime.
In addition to including well known poets such as those already mentioned, “Poetry Speaks, Expanded” also includes the work of many lesser-known poets including Louise Bogan, Louis MacNeice, Muriel Rukeyser, Robert Duncan, and Robert Hayden. The book presents the material on each poet so thoroughly that it is a marvelous way to gain an introduction to the work of previously unfamiliar poets.
The poems collected here are the very best of the very best and hearing them read by their creators is absolutely breathtaking. The CD also contains brief but very insightful introductions to each poet by Charles Osgood who is very easy on the ears.
Poetry, in its essence, is meant to be heard, not merely seen, and this edition of “Poetry Speaks” has gone a long way towards making that happen.
— Kathryn Atwood
Customer reviewer at Amazon.Com