April is National Poetry Month, and poetry is a form of language and literature that begs to be
heard. In short, it’s a great time to call attention to poetry and poets we can meet in the medium they deserve, thanks to audiobooks. Poetry paints with rhythm and imagery what visual artists may use paint or other material to convey.
As with any fine work of art—as well as with our first exposures to spoken language—form and the moment may be more engaging than the effort to understand the how and why of meaning. Lord Byron’s CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE, as brought to our ears in Jamie Parker’s performance, doesn’t demand that we act as students investigating meaning or the workings underlying its form in order to enjoy its flow.
Caroline Kennedy, an experienced and sensitive editor, has compiled SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems as a way of offering the guidance of the art of poetry to the winding path many women’s lives can take. Sandra Cisneros, Gertrude Stein, and Sharon Olds are among the poets whose words come to us through performances by Jane Alexander, John Bedford Lloyd, Hope Davis, Campbell Scott, and Kennedy herself. The range of selections here is broad as well as well chosen: e.e. cummings, Anne Bradstreet, Gregory Corso, and Vikram Seth, as well as Mary Oliver and William Blake. In short, if anything is stinting here, its the direction the title might suggest that this be for women only; look beyond that title, just as, for centuries, women had to assume that “man” was inclusive of all humans.
Our tradition of poetry in America is diverse and makes imaginative use of the past as well as the poets’ own present. Walter Dean Myers’s HERE IN HARLEM, recorded by a full cast including Patricia R. Floyd, Kevin R. Free, Dion Graham, Robin Miles, and Lizan Mitchell, is itself an homage to Edgar Lee Masters’s now century-old SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY. Marilyn Singer’s FOLLOW FOLLOW, which she performs with Joe Morton, looks to folktales for initial spark and then turns what we think we know as the narrative upside down, the play of words when reversed or performed in tones that alter their habitually expected meaning.
Audiobooks and poetry offer a natural combination for enjoyment of both. You can find more of them to explore in our newest reviews.