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Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud Hardcover – April 6, 2009
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Still it is true that some poems sound better read aloud than others, and Robert Pinsky, U.S. Poet Laureate 1997-2000, has come up with a collection of some of the best ever written, designed to please both ear and mind.
The organization is in seven parts. Part I features "Short Lines, Frequent Rhymes," e.g., Gwendolyn Brooks, "We Real Cool"; Robert Frost, "Dust of Snow"; Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall"; Edgar Allan Poe, "Fairy-Land"; five by Emily Dickinson, and twenty-six more. Notice that for the most part the selected poems are not necessary the poet's best or best known. And perhaps the greatest accomplishment in English that might fall under the heading of "Short Lines, Frequent Rhymes," namely Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" doesn't appear perhaps because of its length. I would have liked to have seen included e e cummings's "anyone lived in a pretty how town."
Part II "Long Lines, Strophes, Parallelisms" features the first three chapters of Ecclesiastes; "When You're Lying Awake" from W.S. Gilbert; Allen Ginsberg's inspired musings on Walt Whitman, "A Supermarket in California"; a couple from Walt Whitman and fourteen others.Read more ›
All of these poems, from Wyatt to Williams, from Greville to Ginsberg, read well aloud, as Mr Pinsky believes they should. As an editor, his choices are catholic (small c) and capacious. Unexpected selections exist side by side with "traditional" choices. In an anthology which stresses the vocal quality of verse, we are surprised by the exclusion of W. H. Auden and Dylan Thomas, but are grateful to see old favourites such as Countee Cullen, W. B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, and the glorious poets of the 16th and 17th centuries. Pinsky's introductions and editorial comments are teacherly without ever becoming burdensomely didactic. Accessible, inviting, intelligent, surprising -- this anthology is highly recommended.
Not boring at all.