Today 3-4 p.m. (94.1 FM) Nina Serrano and I will host a fundraising program featuring POETPOURRI, a 3 CD collection of twentieth-century poets reading their poems. Here is how I described the collection, which I produced:
POETPOURRI is a testimony to the sheer diversity of American and English poetic expression in the 20th century. Though various themes emerge, there is no one theme—or even two or three—to make it all “cohere.” (These people cannot even agree on how a poem should be recited.) It’s a potpourri, a poetpourri. There are necessarily omissions in such a project, and some famous voices, though present, have been deliberately slighted to make room for people heard less often. Collections of readings by Allen Ginsberg or Dylan Thomas are readily available. Because of the interest in “spoken word,” many collections of poets reading have recently appeared. Sourcebooks presented a collection of some of the same poets represented here. I found the collection, though interesting, rather heavy-handed. There’s a narration and essays on the “achievement” of each poet, so that the poems tend to become examples of somebody’s thesis about the poets. In POETPOURRI, though the poets are identified in notes, the listener simply hears a series of voices: you have to find your own way, experience the poems just as they are presented by their authors. I suspect that, with poetry’s reputation for dullness and “obscurity,” Sourcebooks was fearful of allowing the listener much space: they had to keep assuring the listener that he/she was doing something significant by listening. Here, in a way—and without interpretation—is the 20th century in all its confused and troubled eloquence.
Poets featured on POETPOURRI: Walt Whitman (1819-1892); Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892); William Butler Yeats (1865-1935); Gertrude Stein (1874-1946, her section includes a rare 1934 radio interview); H.D. (1886-1961); Ezra Pound (1885-1972); William Carlos Williams (1883-1963); T.S. Eliot (1888-1965); Hart Crane (1899-1932, read by Tennessee Williams); James Joyce (1882-1941); Larry Eigner (1927-1996); W.H. Auden (1907-1973); Robert Frost (1874-1963); E.E. Cummings (1894-1962); Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950); Wallace Stevens (1879-1955); Dylan Thomas (1914-1953); Robert Lowell (1917-1977); John Berryman (1914-1972); Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966); Carl Sandburg (1878-1967); Marianne Moore (1887-1972); John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974); Philip Larkin (1922-1985); Frank O’Hara (1926-1966); Richard Wilbur (1921- ); Langston Hughes (1902-1967, with Charles Mingus); Sterling A. Brown (1901-1989); Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000); Bob Kaufman (1925-1996); Charles Bukowski (1920-1994); Charles Olson (1910-1970); Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982); Weldon Kees (1914-1955); Philip Whalen (1923-2002); Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997); Jack Kerouac (1922-1969; Steve Allen on piano); Stuart Z. Perkoff (1930-1974); James Broughton (1913-1999); Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919- ; Jack Foley on guitar); Sylvia Plath (1932-1963); Anne Sexton (1928-1974); Denise Levertov (1923-1997); Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980); Robert Duncan (1919-1988).
Hear the dead speak!
Re-Listen on www.kpfa.org