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Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work from Tennyson to Plath (Book and 3 Audio CDs) Hardcover – October 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks MediaFusion (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570717206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570717208
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 9.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is the definitive anthology to date of canonical poets reading short selections of their own work. Though some of the audio here has been widely available for decades, it is certainly exciting to hear Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Eliot and Co. reading their work and to read easily along in the provided text indeed, a huge first printing of 100,000 is riding on that excitement. Former Poetry Society of America executive director Paschen and National Public Radio reporter Mosby have assembled a very high-wattage team of living poets to write short essays on the historic ones whose voices we hear. The real standouts are about the less familiar of the latter: Rita Dove on the superb modernist Melvin B. Tolson; Forrest Gander on the magisterial Laura (Riding) Jackson; Michael Palmer on San Francisco Renaissance man Robert Duncan; Elizabeth Alexander on Etheridge Knight. T0 hear the distinctive accents and pauses of these poets 42 here in all, including the likes of Gertrude Stein and Robert Lowell remains truly wonderful. Paschen and Mosby's biographical notes can veer into shorthand platitude, but the initiated will be curious as to how poets such as Jorie Graham and Charles Bernstein approach Elizabeth Bishop and Ezra Pound respectively (though the essays are by design cursory). At the very least, those getting their first dose of poetry will find lots of names for further investigation. Charles Osgood introduces each poet's specific selections on the discs, which are complemented by further poems from each poet in the text. All told, while there will be quibbles about missing poets, this set evinces care, and will displace its patchwork of rivals for the foreseeable future. (Oct.)Forecast: Though it's being published in October, look for this set to be a huge holiday item and to begin showing up in public libraries almost immediately. For others, Tennyson's previously unavailable reading of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and Langston Hughes's of "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" will be worth the price of admission on their own.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-A cornucopia of pleasurable reading and listening that features the works of 42 poets. This anthology's high accessibility and its clean and unusual layout ensure its usefulness in most collections. Organized chronologically by the poets' dates of birth, followed by their pictures, a short introduction to their lives, a critical essay by a poet/essayist, some rarely seen handwritten notes, and several of their important poems, this offering would be enough to satisfy most readers. However, the package also includes three CDs of the poets' interpretative readings of these poems. These recordings reflect the pitch, intonation, and age of the poet at the time of the recording such as Robert Frost's gravelly voice, a young Sylvia Plath, or Dylan Thomas's singing cadences. The essays by such writers as Robert Pinsky and Anthony Hecht will be of particular value to teachers introducing literary criticism because their writing is so clean and uncluttered. In addition to the CDs, the poets' notes heighten the sense of the creative process. For example, Dr. William Carlos Williams used prescription pads to scrawl lines as the words came to him. These items punctuate the pages, letting readers know that poetry comes slowly, after numerous cross outs and revisions. The reason for omissions of such great poets as Emily Dickinson is obvious-this collection focuses only on poets whose recordings are available. A must for poetry lovers.

Margaret Nolan, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Mysterious narration is not a good enough reason not to get the book however.
The great interest in this collection, of course, is the opportunity to actually hear a great poet--and possibly one of your own favorites--read their own work.
Gary F. Taylor
Yet with all the complaining the reading and listening to much of this poetry inspires to poetry.
Shalom Freedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 163 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Fourty-two poets read their own work on three CDs. The accompanying text is a large and rather weighty book with a chapter for each of the poets. Each chapter includes a one-page biography, a two or three page essay on the works, and several representative poems including those read on the CD. Poetry fans of all stripe will be fascinated by the readings, which range from early (and difficult to understand) recordings by Lord Tennyson to fairly recent (and good quality) recordings by Sylvia Plath. Some of the recordings are quite rare and hard to find; others have been widely available for many years.
The great interest in this collection, of course, is the opportunity to actually hear a great poet--and possibly one of your own favorites--read their own work. And the result can be disconcerting, magical, and sometimes both. The earlier poets found in the collection do not read their poems so much for content as they do for rhyme, giving the rythms of their work emphasis above all else; later poets, however, are prone to read very dramatically, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. And there are a number of suprises. Carl Sandburg reads with a significant accent and such a lilt that he often sounds as if he is about to flow into song. Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker, two poets as different as night and day, have unexpectedly rich and warm voices. e.e. cummings reads very, very slowly--almost to a point at which you'd like to shake him by the shoulders and ask him to speed it up! Interestingly, it becomes increasingly obvious to the listener that a poet is not necessarily the best reader of his own work, for some are clearly more successful readers than others.
The recordings, be they good or bad, are always interesting. The same cannot be said for the text.
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85 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Whitney Wallace on November 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is just amazing! This poetry and audio CD collection (there are THREE audio CDs in the book) lets you hear lots of different poets reading their own work. There's Auden and Bishop and Langston Hughes and Yeats. It's incredible. I don't know where they found all of these different poets. And the book has essays by some of the best poets around. Billy Collins has an essay, and Richard Wilbur, and Pinsky. So you can listen to and learn about the poets you know (like T.S. Eliot or Sylvia Plath) or you can discover somebody completely new to you (like Melvin Tolson). All in all, the best poetry collection I've ever seen!
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I love poetry and I love hearing poets recite their own work. I can't think of another CD which brings together such a broad collection of recordings. It really is an idea whose time has come. This collection has exposed me to some poets I didn't know before, has deepened my appreciation for some that I had barely heard of, and has given me a real feeling for how tastes in poetry reading change over time. So basically it is a good book/cd set. If you have a lot of money, or if you have been yearning for this kind of thing for a long long time (as I had), then you might consider getting it.
Now the problems. Interspersed with the poetry tracks are tracks of a really dorky sounding narrator (that would be Charles Osgood) giving you a bio on the poet who follows. He sounds like a cheesy voice-over speaker from an overproduced tv documentary. He is so annoying that I cannot bear to let the CD run, as I do my other recorded poetry CDs. And who wants to keep listening to bios, anyways? It's as if the CDs were made to be listened to only once. I have the terrible feeling that the editors thought this narration would be helpful for high-school teachers. I cannot even imagine being forced to listen to his voice while sitting in class . . this kind of thing is what made high school intolerable. Especially when you move from Osgood's narration to someone like Etheridge Knight reciting, the disparity couldn't be more disheartening. When I want to listen to the poems, then, I have to sit by the player or keep a remote in my hand to keep skipping the narration tracks. It really has dampened my appreciation for this effort, since my favorite way to listen to poetry is while washing dishes (hands occupied). I wish they had decided just to let the poets speak for themselves.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Harris on June 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I admit that I found the book itself to be pretty but ultimately not all that useful. It will be displayed on my public bookshelf (which is of course much better looking and better organized than my overloaded private shelves), and I may occasionally take it out to read a poem or two, but I doubt I'll use it more than that.
But that was fine with me, because the allure of this purchase was the CDs. After all, it's relatively easy to find more comprehensive collections of poetry if you're looking for printed collections. But to hear poetry read by the poets themselves is a rare thing indeed, particularly in the case of older poets who passed away before audio recordings were a matter of routine.
Unfortunately, the CDs were easy to lose track of, since the sleeve attached to the book cover was less than handy to use. Initially, I felt like I didn't get what I bargained for, since many of the recordings were terribly poor in quality. Even more to the point, I felt that some of the poets were poor... no, if I'm going to be honest, I have to call them terrible readers. I set the disks aside with a feeling of disappointment.
But when I picked them up again later, I found enough gems to make this a more than worthwhile purchase. There are some readings in the mix that are not read but performed, and the contrast between those works and the dreaded monotone (or perhaps even worse, the overacting) of other poems really made me think about what makes a good spoken word poem versus a good visual or printed one. As a result of this purchase, I evaluate poetry on more levels than I did before, and that's a valuable thing indeed. When you combine a handful of priceless readings with the lessons to be taken from the less entertaining ones, it makes for a worthwhile purchase overall.
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