Starting in 1995, NPR’s All Things Considered began presenting poets reading their own works. Introduced by “poetry DJ” Catherine Bowman, these popular short segments allowed listeners to experience poetry as a kind of verbal music, recalling its roots as a spoken art form. Word of Mouth, edited by Bowman, brings together the poems that have been featured on NPR, providing a window onto the dynamic contemporary poetry scene. A child playing with flashes of sunlight in the aisle of an airplane; a woman describing tropical fruit to someone in a faraway country; a man building a deck with his dead father’s hammer; the musings of a Barbie doll participating in a 12-step program: these poems powerfully and lyrically transform the stuff of every day life. A celebration of the poetic voice that includes 33 acclaimed writers, this vibrant anthology proves beyond any doubt that poetry is far more than just words on paper.
Quincy Troupe • Czeslaw Milosz • Campbell McGrath • C.D. Wright • Jack Gilbert • Heather McHugh • David Lehman • Wang Ping • Joseph Brodsky • Paul Beatty • Lorna Dee Cervantes • Paul Muldoon • Lucille Clifton • Naomi Shihab Nye • Richard Blanco • Albert Goldbarth • Carrie Allen McCray • Belle Waring • Russell Edson • Kevin Young • Nuali Di Dhomhnaill • Charles Harper Webb • Denise Duhamel • Yusef Komunyakaa • Hal Sirowitz • Lucia Perillo • Amy Gerstler • Maura Stanton • Marilyn Chin • Philip Booth • Jane Cooper • Diane DiPrima • Elizabeth Spires
Bowman begins this treasure of a poetry book by discussing the purpose of her collection and something of its background. Her program on NPR featuring poetry readings from a range of writers has become, to her amazement and delight, very popular. Her purpose in putting the program together was to give "accessibility" to poetry and let the world know "That poetry doesn't have to wear priestly robes, speak in puzzles, smell like a rare and perfect rose, and float in the realm of ideas instead of walking firmly on the ground." The poems in this book are taken from her radio interviews and from readings the poets have given. Bowman gives each author a brief, concise introduction. The poets range from Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz to Carrie Allen McCray, who was 73 when she began her career as a poet. There are some better-known poets such as Lucille Clifton and Naomi Shihab Nye, but all the poets are accomplished and offer here a diverse tapestry of work. Selections reflect a wide range of subjects: "work, play, music, love, lovemaking, beginnings, endings, family, eating, drinking, gardening, shopping, spirituality, sports, legacies, naming, aging, politics, art, culture, city life, country life, travel, history." Charles Harper Webb writes about the deep dissatisfactions most people find in their lives in his poem called "Buyer's Remorse": "The ink's still wet on our tickets to France and we wish we'd picked Japan..." Denise Duhamel writes about one of the icons of our times in her "Barbie" poems, "She couldn't make a peace sign with her stuck-together fingers. She felt a little like Sandra Dee at a Janis Joplin concert." There are tender offerings from Phillip Booth in such poems as "Hope"or "First Lesson," and then funky works from Kevin Young with his "Eddie Priest's Barbershop & Notary." There's certainly nothing like being able to listen to poets read their own works, but it is always gratifying to read and savor the words from such skilled writers. This is a wonderful collection that can be enjoyed in high school and public libraries alike. Let's hope that there will be a volume two in the near future. KLIATT Codes: SA Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Random House, Vintage, 183p., Tibbetts