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The Poets' Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family    by John Lithgow order for
Poets' Corner
by John Lithgow
Order:  USA  Can
Hachette Audio, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Poets' Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family is compiled by puckish rhymster John Lithgow, who exuberantly introduces fifty of his favorite poets and their works. The book comes with a bonus MP3 CD 'featuring readings by John Lithgow and friends'. That impressive list of buddies includes (in order of reading) Eileen Atkins, Jodie Foster, Gary Sinise, Glenn Close, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Billy Connolly, Robert Sean Leonard, Lynn Redgrave, Sam Waterston, Kathy Bates and Susan Sarandon.

Lithgow begins with the words 'I grew up with poems' and then goes on to credit his Grammy Ima and his dad for instilling their passion for poetry in him. Of his selection of fifty favorites, he tells us that all they have in common is that 'they wrote in English and their work survives them.' Of their encounter with the poems in the book, Lithgow advises readers to 'grab on to them, wrestle with them, fall in love with them, make them a part of you, and grow up with them.' Poets range (in alphabetical order of surname) from 'Serious Poet' Matthew Arnold to William Butler Yeats 'The Nationalist' - each is assigned a similar tag. Lithgow offers his readers an articulate, at times whimsical, analysis of each bard's background and body of work, explaining what it is that he connected with in the selected poem. He also lists other favorites by that individual, and in many cases cites online sources for readings. The occasional quotation is thrown in for good measure, as in Robert Frost's 'A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.'

But what impresses most in this anthology are the readings themselves, masterfully narrated by Lithgow and his friends in a delightful variety of accents. I enjoyed the selection, which ranges from the serious to the silly, from poets I know well and always enjoy to several new to me - whose work I plan to explore further. This enticing collection comes in both hardcover and audiobook (narrated by John Lithgow himself). Many not yet touched by the muse may well discover a passion for poetry after listening to Lithgow's lissome analysis and The Poets' Corner's lyrical performances.

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