Poetry on Record ($49.98) accomplishes what seems nearly impossible: It humanizes 98 of the Western world’s inimitable poets in a way that your typical two-ton freshman lit anthology never could. This exciting four-disc collection breathes life back into such literary warriors and saviors as William Butler Yeats, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Dylan Thomas, Gwendolyn Brooks and Jack Kerouac. Poets working from 1888 through 2006 each recite a couple pieces with staid or emphatic diction. Some performances are barely audible, such as the unbelievablly early recording of the Victorian era’s Alfred Lord Tennyson reading "Come Into the Garden, Maud," which sounds like an incantation in a snowstorm. Walt Whitman’s "America," ironically enough, plays like a joke told by a German Dadaist. And in "All My Pretty Ones," Elizabeth Bishop tells the saddest story of a fish she caught, "the grunting weight of a fish" who didn’t fight at all, breathing in terrible oxygen. It’s heartbreaking, but Sexton, that beautiful woman, has a voice that’s simple yet compassionate, like a mom putting her clean child to sleep in summer sheet.
Rebecca Mazzei is Metro Times arts editor. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.