Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work from Tennyson to Plath

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Poetry Speaks features the work of the most influential writers in modern poetry-written and performed-from 1892 to 1997. This book combines their most significant poems in print with the authors themselves reading their poetry on audio CD. Poets range from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and Dorothy Parker to Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Gwendolyn Brooks.

The power of spoken poetry is at the heart of ...

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Overview

Poetry Speaks features the work of the most influential writers in modern poetry-written and performed-from 1892 to 1997. This book combines their most significant poems in print with the authors themselves reading their poetry on audio CD. Poets range from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot and Dorothy Parker to Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Gwendolyn Brooks.

The power of spoken poetry is at the heart of Poetry Speaks. Poetry is a vocal art, an art meant to be read aloud. Listening to a poem read aloud can be a transforming experience. Poetry Speaks not only introduces the finest work from some of the greatest poets who ever lived, it reintroduces the oral tradition of poetry.

Poetry Speaks features over 40 poets in chapters each containing:
• The poems that are read by the poet on the audio CD
• Additional poems in print form to allow the reader to further explore the poet
• A short biography and photo of each poet
• Original manuscripts and letters for most of the featured poets
• An original essay for each poet written by today’s most influential poets, a veritable Who’s Who of poetry, including: Seamus Heaney on W.B. Yeats; Richard Wilbur on Robert Frost; Mark Strand on Wallace Stevens; Jorie Graham on Elizabeth Bishop; Glyn Maxwell on Dylan Thomas; and Rita Dove on Melvin B. Tolson.

Poetry Speaks-combining the talents of great poets past and living, their words written and spoken-is the most ambitious, comprehensive and innovative poetry project to be published in years, and is sure to be the model for collections to come.

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Editorial Reviews

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What a treat for hard-core poetry fans and neophytes alike! A truly remarkable anthology that offers an overview of 20th-century poetry's greatest works (plus a few from the late 19th century), Poetry Speaks also includes short biographies of the poets covered and insightful commentary by some of today's most esteemed living writers of the form, including Seamus Heaney and Robert Pinsky. The accompanying three audio CDs feature incredible recordings of Tennyson, Robert Browning, e. e. cummings, Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others reading from their own work.
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. To 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 Mosby¹s 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 poet¹s 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.)
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.
Library Journal
In this anthology, which comes with three audio CDs, Paschen, a poet and cofounder of the national "Poetry in Motion" program, and freelance writer Mosby, editor of the Rhino Records CD anthologies In Their Own Voices and Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers, present a well-balanced cross section of 42 poets from 1892 to 1997. The selections represent several major poetry movements, including the late romantics, modernists, postmodernists, confessionals, and black arts writers. Charles Osgood, who narrates the audio, offers low-key introductions that never distract from the poems at hand, all of which are read by the poets themselves on the accompanying CDs. Each chapter of the anthology proper is dedicated to a specific poet and includes a brief biography and an original essay from a contemporary writer. Al Young's essay on Langston Hughes, Joy Harjo's on Theodore Roethke, and Sonia Sanchez's on Gwendolyn Brooks are outstanding for their warmth, humor, and affection. Readers and listeners are guaranteed to hear poems in a new way after spending time with this book and CD set. Recommended for all academic libraries and public libraries looking to enrich their poetry collections. Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570717208
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: BOOK & 3 CDs
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Elise Paschen
Elise Paschen
Elise Paschen is the author of Infidelities, winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize and Houses: Coasts, and her poems have appeared in numerous
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


Alfred, Lord Tennyson
1809-1892
b. Somersby, England


Alfred, Lord Tennyson, probably the most popular English poet of his day, was born the fourth of twelve children on August 6, 1809. The financial comfort of the Tennyson household was precarious. Tennyson's father, rector of a local church, practically disowned by his wealthy family, appears to have taken recourse to alcohol and drugs. As an escape from this dark atmosphere, Tennyson turned to writing poetry at the age of eight.

    In 1827, Tennyson published Poems by Two Brothers, a compilation of poems written by Tennyson and his older brother, Charles, and a few written by his brother Frederick. That same year, Tennyson enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he continued to write poetry winning the 1828 Chancellor's Gold Medal for his poem "Timbuctoo." While at Cambridge, he joined the Apostles, an exclusive intellectual society, and became acquainted with Arthur Hallam, another brilliant Victorian man of letters who was to become Tennyson's dearest friend and perhaps his greatest inspiration. In 1830, Tennyson published the volume, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, to universal acclaim, but soon after began a decline. In 1831, his father died and left his family to cope with numerous debts, forcing Tennyson to withdraw from Trinity College and return home. He published another volume, Poems, in 1832, but it received mostly unfavorable reviews. Then, in 1833, Hallam died unexpectedly while traveling with his father. Tennyson's grief, poverty, and family problems (his brother Edward was committed to a mental asylum the same year Hallam died) conspired to distract Tennyson from the literary world, and though he continued to write, he published nothing for the rest of the decade. During this time, Tennyson attempted to court Emily Sellwood, the daughter of a family friend of the Hallams. Tennyson and Sellwood were engaged briefly in 1838, nine years after Arthur Hallam introduced the two, but they were officially separated in 1840 for financial reasons. Caught in a web of misfortunes, Tennyson had reached his life's low point.

    Prospects improved in 1842, when Tennyson's friends convinced him to publish the two-volume Poems. The book was a success and helped stabilize Tennyson's finances as well as his spirits. However, he chose to invest nearly all of his money in a business venture that failed and he lost essentially everything. In 1845, he received a government pension based on his literary accomplishments and financial need. In 1847, he published the book-length poem, The Princess, to great acclaim, and three years later, his finances were finally stable enough for him to marry Emily Sellwood. In 1850, he published In Memoriam, a brilliant lyric sequence memorializing Hallam, and the poem established Tennyson as the greatest poet of the day. Few were surprised when he was appointed Poet Laureate after William Wordsworth's death.

    While Poet Laureate, Tennyson lived happily with his wife and published such works as Maud, and Other Poems, "Charge of the Light Brigade," and Idylls of the King, all of which maintained or enhanced his reputation while helping shape Victorian tastes. In 1883, he was granted a barony and a seat in the House of Lords by the crown, the first person ever to receive such a position based merely on literary prowess. Tennyson died peacefully at his home on October 6, 1892, and was buried in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.


Anthony Hecht on Alfred, Lord Tennyson


And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep, In blanchéd linen, smooth, and lavendered ...
—Keats

Her limbs are delicate as an eyelid,
Love has blinded him with tears ...

—Yeats

Music that gentlier on the spirit lies
Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes ...

—Tennyson


Here are three eyelid poets (of the three, Tennyson was the most enamoured of the word), all aiming at the same sense of delicacy, beautiful softness, and vulnerability. Yeats might well have had Keats and Tennyson lurking somewhere in the storages of his mind. The three have more than eyelids in common: they were all, at least at some points in their careers, lullingly musical in their commerce with the English language.

    In his biography of Auden, Humphrey Carpenter reports that the poet, "began editing a selection of Tennyson's poetry for a New York publisher; in his introduction to the volume, he wrote of Tennyson: `He had the finest ear, perhaps, of any English poet; he was also undoubtedly the stupidest.' This earned the comment from T.S. Eliot that if Auden had been a better scholar he would have known many stupider."

    One must puzzle about Auden's accusation. Tennyson's biographer, Robert Bernard Martin, reports in connection with the poet's student years at Cambridge that, "Though he was no true intellectual he early cast his lot with those who were," meaning The Apostles, among others. But Martin also declares, "His instincts were deeply conservative, but otherwise tended to confuse political thought with xenophobic patriotism," which Auden would have deplored; but it is worth adding that


Auden had little sympathy with the moods of nostalgia and regret that characterize so much of Tennyson's most beautiful lyrics.
When Thomas Hardy wished to strike the note of forlorn abandonment, he summons Tennyson by name, and slyly echoes him:
The bower we shrined to Tennyson,
Gentlemen,
Is roof-wrecked; damps there drip upon
Sagged seats, the creeper-nails are rust,
The spider is sole denizen;
Even she who voiced those rhymes is dust,
Gentlemen!


Surely those rusty nails recall the opening of "Mariana":
With blackest moss the flower-pots
Were thickly crusted, one and all;
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall
.


But Tennyson could convey many moods, from the heroic ("Ulysses") to the lethargic ("The Lotus-Eaters") to the neurotic ("Maud" and "Saint Simeon Stylites"). I want here to reflect upon one of his most beautiful, erotic, and languorous songs from The Princess, "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal":
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font.
The fire-fly wakens; waken thou with me.
Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake.
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.


    Our finest Tennyson critic, Christopher Ricks, observes of this poem, "Tennyson succeeds in the hardest task of all: distinguishing love from lust in erotic poetry." He also informed me that the poem is a species of Ghazal, and some of its leading images and details—crimson and white petals, cypress and palace, peacock, stars, and lilies—are commonly to be found in Persian love poetry; and while Tennyson assured a questioner that he knew no Persian, one of his close friends was Edward FitzGerald, translator of The Rubaiyat.

    Tennyson was rarely careless (he was one of the most scrupulous of revisers) so that we must puzzle about the pronoun "she" in the sixth line, which can refer only to the peacock, which is male. I will attempt to account for this anomaly by suggesting that there is something equivocal about gender throughout the song. In context, it is read sotto voce by the princess as she sits beside her half-conscious prince, with whom, against her firm resolve, she is falling in love. I want to propose that in the course of this brief poem there is a deliberate and conscious shift from the masculine to the feminine posture of the mind, that the first eight lines present an invitation to love, protected by the privacy conferred by dusk, and encouraged by the veiled and ghostly obscurity surrounding the peacock, and the yielding posture of Danaë (who thwarts the imprisonment of a puritanical father, the agent of prudery and repression) and at one with the waking fireflies. But beginning with the ninth line, the mode of expression—with the furrowing and planting of thought, its earthen fertility, and the invitation to enter the bosom of the speaker—appears to shift to the feminine. And I would suggest that this shift is indicative of the change in the princess herself who initially founded a female university from which men were sternly excluded; an institution invaded by the prince and mo of his friends, all disguised as women; they are exposed, and the prince sues for the love of the princess, only to be coldly informed that she has foresworn marriage; the prince and his fellows are wounded in a tourney whereupon the princess, aroused by sympathy for his plight, begins to yield to the softnesses of affection. The story is in fact that of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, with the genders reversed. As Martin says, "The story begins lightheartedly ... with a direct inversion of all the accepted roles for men, now taken by women," but in which at the end the old familiar erotic impulses win their way through to a happy ending.


Ulysses


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me,—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads,—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


"The Bugle Song"
from The Princess


The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O, hark, O, hear! How thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.
[1850]

Excerpted from Poetry Speaks by . Copyright © 2001 by Sourcebooks, Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

1. Alfred Lord Tennyson
2. Robert Browning
3. Walt Whitman
4. W.B. Yeats
5. Gertrude Stein
6. Robert Frost
7. Carl Sandburg
8. Wallace Stevens
9. William Carlos Williams
10. Ezra Pound
11. H.D.
12. Robinson Jeffers
13. T.S. Eliot
14. John Crowe Ransom
15. Edna St. Vincent Millay
16. Dorothy Parker
17. E.E. Cummings
18. Louise Bogan
19. Melvin B. Tolson
20. Laura Riding
21. Langston Hughes
22. Ogden Nash
23. W.H. Auden
24. Louis MacNeice
25. Theodore Roethke
26. Elizabeth Bishop
27. Robert Hayden
28. Muriel Rukeyser
29. Randall Jarrell
30. John Berryman
31. Dylan Thomas
32. William Stafford
33. Robert Lowell
34. Gwendolyn Brooks
35. Robert Duncan
36. Phillip Larkin
37. Denise Levertov
38. Allen Ginsberg
39. Frank O’Hara
40. Anne Sexton
41. Etheridge Knight
42. Sylvia Plath

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2002

    This could have been much better

    This book is based on a good idea i.e.,enabling the reader of poetry to also be its listener,the listener of the poet reading their own poetry .This is enhanced by having distinguished contemporary poets write brief commentaries on the various poets of the anthology . The great problem I found with the work was with the realization of these ideas.For the first poets presented ,Tennyson Browning and Whitman, there is the poor quality of the recording at the time these poets lived. But this technical problem does not play a part with the other poets. With them very often the problem is that we hear from them work which is not their best.The anthology too includes a fairly large number of quite undistinguished poets . There are of course great and moving moments in the readings.Sandburg provides such , as does Frost in his way. There are also revelatory moments as in the chilling tone of Plath's reading which frightens in its deadening inhumanity.The perhaps most remarkable reader of his own poetry in modern times,Dylan Thomas is strong here also. The anthology 's perhaps greatest strength is the feel of a flowingness in poetry throughout .The expert's comments are brief and not very interesting for anyone who knows the poet's work well .There is little on a deep critical level here. This is a popular anthology but my sense is it could have been done in a better way. Is there by the way no religious poetry in the modern era? So again this work does give much it is also disappointing . The poem I willed / I could not write/ The poem I wrote/ became my life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2002

    Finally a complete collection of contemporary poetry

    It is a little unusual at first to hear the actual voice recordings of the great poets. The recordings of William Butler Yeats, Tennyson, Robert Browning, e. e. cummings, Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, are all included reading their own works. What I find interesting is their individual style of reading. One one level it is fascinating to hear their actual voices and that brings a new dimension to how one might have interpreted their works in the past. On another level some of the voices may not bring forth the poetic character one might expect from a poet who is prolific in writing words yet less masterful in their spoken delivery. Still this is a great rare collection and a wonderful reference to the recorded words of these legendary poets. Certainly hearing Allen Ginsberg in contrast to still living great poets Seamus Heaney and Robert Pinsky brings to light the great weaves and textures words spoken from these authors bring. The book brings to life the poems in print form adding a short biography and photo of each poet. The book is well researched and you can read some original writings and reproduced manuscripts. Some of the earlier recordings were probably remastered and still sound like they were recorded with old world technology and that is to be expected. Otherwise this is an excellent -must have - collection.

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