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The Best Poems of All Time Part 1    by Leslie Pockell order for
Best Poems of All Time Part 1
by Leslie Pockell
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2001 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've always enjoyed listening to poetry, so pressed the Play button for this audio collection with anticipation. Though many might question whether or not this set of poems is, as labeled, the Best of all time, there can be no disagreement that it includes many of the greats. This Part 1 cassette covers 'Classics to 1850' (there is also a Part 2 for the 1850s to the present) and the variety provided by about a dozen readers keeps the interpretations fresh and interesting, as does the occasional brief musical interlude.

I listened to old favorites with pleasure - such as Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat ('The Moving Finger' verse is included), and selections from the Iliad and the Aeneid. What surprised me were the lovely cadences of the old English in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and the Scottish dialect in Burns' To A Mouse, both of which I have always found awkward reading. There are some evocative Chinese verses, as well as the expected selections from Dante, Donne, Shakespeare, Walter Scot, Edgar Allan Poe, and of course Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How Do I Love Thee.

Though many in this set of verses are complex enough that those unfamiliar with them will need to read as well as listen to get the meaning, audio does bring another dimension to aid in understanding. After all, poetry was always meant to be read aloud. This 90 minute cassette makes many of the best early poems accessible to all ages.

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