Much of American poetry before Whitman, Dickinson, and Frost is passé today. College anthologies rarely include Longfellow or Whittier, those Great American Poets of the 1800s. This excellent selection of 65 American poems brings back those names, along with "Hiawatha," "The Raven," "Annabel Lee," "Old Ironsides," and "The Indian Student," all the favorites from our collective childhood - omitting only, it seems, "The Skeleton in Armor" and "Evangeline." It takes a certain courage and incredible skill to deliver all the verses of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Frankie and Johnny" without falling into melody, and this skilled ensemble delivers a highly accomplished narration of a host of American classic poems, in the tones and accents in which they have traditionally been heard.
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"[An] excellent selection...this skilled ensemble delivers a highly accomplished reading." (AudioFile)
I found the selections of this recording tedious. There are a few classics: the best-known of Emily Dickenson, Frost's "The Road Less Travelled", "O Captain, My Captain" by Whitman. However, beyond the few gems, it's one 19th century forced rhyme scheme after another. Old, dull images, and boring language--all the sorts of things the best American poets of the 20th century rejected. It's rather sad, then, that some of the best American poetry to this date--Eliot, Stevens, Pound, etc. is passed over in favor of patriotic tripe and period pieces.
What's more, even the good poems are painful to listen to because of pompous, un-insightful narrators. The quality of the readings is so bad I found it difficult to finish any single track. One is reminded of Hamlet or Cyrano's famous diatrabs on delivery. These readers are "mouthers" of the worst sort. Awful awful awful!
Unless you're looking for a collection of poems to listen to while saluting the flag and consulting Reader's Digest, skip this one.
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