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Poetic history

In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry
In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry
By various artists

Rhino Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the December 6, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

Whether you're an avid fan of verse, are trying to build a well-balanced literary or recorded library, or want to provide your children the best education possible, this box set should be considered a must.

Four discs of some of the greatest poets in recent history – Ezra Pound to Maya Angelou, Robert Frost to Charles Bukowski, Gertrude Stein to Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac to Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones). More than four hours of these poets reading their own works, bringing their own words to life, giving them the inflection and meter they intended. From an 1890 wax cylinder of Walt Whitman (made by Thomas Edison, no less!) reading "America" to a 1956 recording of Allen Ginsburg reading his "America," this set traces the history of 20th Century English language verse.

The accompanying booklet contains essays on poetry by Erica Jong, Al Young and Rebekah Presson. And in a victory for the oral tradition of verse, the poems' lyrics are not enclosed – forcing the listener to truly pay attention to the recording.

This is more than literature, more than just another recording. It is history.