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The 100 Best Poems of All Time


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Leslie Pockell is the editor of The 100 Best Poems of All Time. Adrienne Avila is the co-author of Everything I've Learned.


These two productions seem the literary equivalent of elevator music. On the first tape, very short poems by Tu Fu, Basho, or Li Po, with no mention of their nationality or that these are even translations, appear beside the single, most familiar quatrain from Omar Khayyam's "The Rubaiyat." Of what use are these (often overly dramatic) fragments? Yet room is made for the 23rd Psalm, "Amazing Grace," and "`T'was the Night Before Christmas." Stefan Rudnicki, reading from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, does a good job of conveying the sound of the original, while poems by Fran?ois Villon, Friedrich Von Schiller, or Gerard de Nerval would seem to have been written in modern English. The second tape is even more frustrating, if only because the poets, if not the poems, will be more familiar. It's good to have grade-school favorites such as "Casey at the Bat" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee" in easy listening range, but "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land"? And then only an eight-line poem by William Carlos Williams. The balance seems terribly wrong here. Since nothing on these tapes enhances a listener's appreciation of poetry, it's impossible to recommend them. Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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