Various Artists

Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work 1888-2006

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Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work 1888-2006, the deluxe, artfully presented box set from Shout Factory, is essentially (though not related to commercially) a new, updated version of In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry released in 1996 by Rhino. Perhaps it's because they were assembled by the same person, Rebekah Presson Mosby, who compiled not only the Rhino anthology, but also Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers: Black Poets Read Their Work and, with Elise Paschen, Poetry Speaks, and she writes the extended liner essay here entitled "Our Lives Distilled." This set was introduced -- as was the Rhino anthology -- with a different essay, by poet, educator, and author Al Young. Much of the material on the Rhino set is replicated here. In the case of writers from the 19th century through the early '50s, this is understandable. After all, how many tapes of Walt Whitman, Alfred Lord Tennyson (there has been some deabte as tothe authenticity of these two recordings), and W.B. Yeats can there be? What isn't here is other poets -- poets who haven't had the same work duplicated over and over -- and why, when there is so much else available? Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Lawrence Ferlenghetti, e.e. cummings, Etheridge Knight, Charles Simic, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, and many others included here have plenty of recorded material available, some of it arguably as good as what's here. But, licensing being what it is, who knows. In any case, there are some very important updates here: the inclusion of poets such as Carl Hancock Rux, Suji Kwock Kim, Elizabeth Alexander, Elise Paschen, Deborah Garrison, D.A. Powell, Kevin Prufer, Jonathan Lamfers, and more. Many of the greats remain, but it hurts to see Jimmy Santiago Baca and Tess Gallagher left off of this set (they were included on the Rhino package), while it does a heart proud to see some academic stuffed shirts like John Ciardi and Edward Hirsch absent to leave room for some far more vibrant, younger voices, as well as inestimably important historical ones, like the great, dramatic poet James Weldon Johnson (this collection gets points just for including his The Creation in the mix), H.D. (aka Hilda Doolittle), Sterling Brown, Robert Browning, Edgar Lee Masters, and Tennyson (who reads Charge of the Light Brigade). Somebody has to explain why Kenneth Patchen, one of the last links to the traditions of the 19th century yet remaining a thoroughly modern poet and visual artist (of the San Francisco Renaissance school) gets dissed from both collections! There is something included -- or not -- to piss everyone off, but far more pressing is what a wealth there is in this collection. Its book is gorgeously illustrated with biographies, photos, and impeccable design work by Jeff Palo. Highly recommended if you don't have the Rhino collection; but there is too much duplication if you do.

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