Narrated by Charles Osgood
Edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 4/30/04
Poetry has a voice. Spoken aloud it takes on a new dimension, bringing the words to life in a new way. Poetry Speaks attempts to bring that to the reader. A relatively comprehensive collection of poems as read by their authors. Moving in rough chronological order the collection begins with Alfred, Lord Tennyson and ends with Sylvia Plath. Between them lies a wealth of poets. Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Theodore Roethke.
The three CDs that comprise the essence of poetry speaks are accompanied by a book that is wonderful unto itself. Containing the complete text of the poems read (sometimes only in part) on the CDs, the book could stand alone. The introductions to each poet's work are fascinating. They vary from biographies to looks at the poems place in history to looks at how the poems are influencing the poets of today. And the poets of today are the ones who wrote the introductions. They talk about how they were changed by the poems, and how the poems changed the world.
But there are hundreds of poetry anthologies in the world. And most of them have fascinating introductions to the poets. Poetry Speaks, then, has its greatest advantage in the conclusion of the voices of the poets. Tennyson's wax cylinder recordings are difficult to understand, but his voice flows and lilts. He almost seems to sing as he recites from "The Charge of the Light Brigade". William Carlos Williams reads his poems as crisply as he wrote them, each word clear and sharp. Dylan Thomas (who is famous for his own reading of a "Child's Christmas in Wales") uses his famous voice to read his poetry with drama and gusto. There is no question as to where the emphasis should go. There is no puzzling over the poets' meaning on each line break. It is presented for you to enjoy, not to analyze.
If you love poetry, Poetry Speaks will give you the poems you love in a new form. It is a pleasure to listen to the familiar favorites read aloud as they were intended to be read. If you are not a poetry reader, you might still enjoy this interesting journey through the development of modern poetry. Poetry Speaks is definitely one of the best volumes of poetry I've encountered.