Elise Paschen & Rebecca Presson Mosby, editors,
Poetry Speaks Expanded
(Sourcebooks, 2007)

Ever wonder what Alfred, Lord Tennyson sounded like reading his poems? Walt Whitman? Ever wanted to hear Yeats himself read "The Lake Isle of Innisfree?" Here's your chance. Poetry Speaks Expanded is a magnificent anthology of some of the Western world's most important poets, featuring their work as it appears on the printed page and on CD, recorded by the poets themselves.

We hear historically important poets like Carl Sandburg and James Joyce as well as the more contemporary artists such as Jack Kerouac and Robert Duncan. Frank O'Hara reads his wonderful "Ave Maria" and Dylan Thomas reads "Fern Hill."

For lovers of poetry, this book is a dream come true. For poets, it is an inspiration and a necessity, and for librarians, it is a must buy.

Poetry Speaks aims to be more than a collection of voices. Each chosen poet is given a written introduction by another poet who knows and is sympathetic to his subject's work. Frank Bidart, for example, discusses Robert Lowell while Elizabeth Spires writes about the life and work of John Berryman. The introductory discussions are followed by a handful of poems and a couple of those poems are contained on one of the three CDs that accompany the book. This is a physically beautiful volume, oversized and attractively laid out with photos of each poet and, very often, samples of their handwriting -- for William Carlos Williams, a medical doctor, the book has photographs of his hand-written prescriptions.

The editors admit that some excellent poets were left out because they could only include those who had recorded their works. That means every reader will quarrel with the selections -- I was surprised by the absence of Nancy Willard, for example -- but that kind of quarreling is part of the fun.

And Poetry Speaks Expanded provides a lot of fun.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

12 April 2008

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