Thursday, January 10, 2008

Poetry Speaks Expanded edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby

Poetry Speaks Expanded is a huge and ambitious book with three accompanying CDs, bringing us an overview, from a USA perspective, of English language poetry from the end of the 19th Century to the later years of the 20th Century. The 40 poets included here were chosen from influential poets who have lived and died since the invention of sound recording. The poets are arranged in order of date of birth, starting with Alfred Lord Tennyson and ending with Sylvia Plath. For each poet we are presented with a brief biographical introduction, an appreciation from a living poet and a selection of their work. The biographies are fascinating, offering real insights into the influences different poets had on each other artistically and personally. The appreciations are all excellent, each writer obviously chosen for their keen interest in the featured poet they are matched with. Each writer takes their own approach to their subject: Brad Leithauser for example gives us a clear overview to the work of e.e. cummings, while Robert Bly concentrates on William Stafford's 'genius in sound and his relation to reverie'.The development of poetic attitudes to numerous themes, including human rights, death, the environment can can be traced through this book, it's also instructive to look at how the style and form of poetry changed through the period. The CDs are also fascinating with an informative narrative from Charles Osgood and sample recordings from all the poets featured in the book, showing the development of reading styles and sound recording quality over the period. Some readers outside the USA may be surprised by some of the poets included or excluded, but as a guide to the greatest influences on US poetry over the past century it is an invaluable resource.

A longer review of this book, concentrating on nature poetry, can be found on Crafty Green Poet. A more complete review can be found here.

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