Friday, November 14, 2014

The Poet's Corner by John Lithgow

The Poet’s Corner is subtitled "The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family." I suppose the word “family” is in the title because there is some nonsense poetry included and because of Lithgow’s grandfatherly tone. But if I were trying to introduce my children to poetry, this is not the selection I would choose. The inclusion of modern poetry with its clunky rhythms and obtuse meanings would surely create a distaste for poems among the very young. (If someone has to explain a poem to you before you can like it, you have already missed much of the magic, soul-touching quality of poetry.)

The positive side of this mixture of old and new poems is that you can compare them for yourself. As you listen/read, it becomes increasingly clear that the “new” is, in fact, very much like the Emperor and his new clothes, pretending to be well-dressed, but sadly naked. One poem was so awful, I laughed out loud.

If I had known how much modern poetry was in this audiobook, I probably would not have purchased it. On the other hand, I was glad to have such a painless, crash course on the “greats” of Western poetry. I even learned to appreciate the talent of several poets who I hadn’t liked before (even if their poetry still does not appeal to me).

John Lithgow introduces 50 poems and their authors in alphabetical order of author, so you get the likes of Gertrude Stein right next to Shakespeare, which can be disconcerting. But as I wrote above, it makes the modern authors look pretty silly. The poems are superbly narrated by Hollywood stars such as Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Jodie Foster, et al. 

Even though, the book did not meet my expectations, my enjoyment of the classic poems superseded my disappointment in the others. And it rekindled my desire to brush up on memorization.

1 comment:

Annie Kate said...

This sounds like fun and like a good mix of old and new, great and silly. The comparison between the two sounds just perfect!

I just ordered both the audio book and the paper book from the library and am looking forward to this treat.

Thank you for the review.