Cover image for Poetry speaks : hear great poets read their work, from Tennyson to Plath
Poetry speaks : hear great poets read their work, from Tennyson to Plath
Paschen, Elise.
Publication Information:
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks MediaFusion, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiv, 336 pages : illustrations ; 28 cm + 3 audio discs (4 3/4 in.)
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS323.5 .P58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize
PS323.5 .P58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize
PS323.5 .P58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS323.5 .P58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Offers brief biographies, critical interpretations, and selected poems by forty-two American, Irish, and English poets from 1892 to 1997, along with recordings of each of the authors reading the works aloud.

Author Notes

Elise Paschen was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. While an undergraduate at Harvard, she was awarded the Lloyd McKim Garrison Medal and the Joan Grey Untermyer Poetry Prize. Elise received her M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in 20th Century British and American Literature at Oxford University where she co-founded Oxford Poetry.

Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America from 1988 until 2001, she is the co-founder of Poetry in Motion. Paschen was the featured Illinois poet at the National Book Festival sponsored by the Library of Congress in September 2006.

Elise Paschen is the author of Bestiary (Red Hen Press, 2009), Infidelities (Story Line Press, 1996), winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, and Houses: Coasts (Oxford: Sycamore Press). Her poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and she is editor of The New York Times best-selling anthology Poetry Speaks to Children and Poetry Speaks Who I Am (Sourcebooks).

Dr. Paschen serves as Poet Laureate of Three Oaks, Michigan and teaches in the MFA Writing Program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

She lives in Chicago with her husband and their two children.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This anthology of well-chosen poems by 42 American, Irish, and English poets acquires scholarly value less from the well-written introductory essays than from the accompanying sound disks, in the poets' own voices (including first recordings of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Langston Hughes). Some of the readings are valuable for the interpretative guidance furnished by the poet's oral interpretation (e.g., Yeats's vocal exaggeration of the accentual rhythm), and some are valuable because they reveal more than the text of the poem (Robert Browning confesses his failure to remember his own lines, and persons present in the studio cheer his celebrity nonetheless). The inclusion of a recording that admittedly may or may not be Walt Whitman's voice enhances the value of the collection, and so does the representation of outstanding but still underappreciated poets (Louise Bogan, Laura [Riding] Jackson, Melvin Tolson) among the justly familiar (Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings). The handsome letterpress, two-color printing, and black-and-white photo portraits make the volume attractive, and though bibliographies would have been a helpful addition, the archival value of the recordings and the judicious selection of texts make this a worthy addition to academic libraries serving readers at all levels. T. Hoagwood Texas A&M University



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] (Continues...) 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.