»  36 Great American Poems



This spoken-language CD contains a selection of American poetry, from the 1660s to the 1970s. For a complete list of the poems, navigate down to The Poems. For dates and birthplaces of the poets, go to The Poets.

The Readers are Jim Cooke, a professional actor, and Patricia Busacker, a broadcaster. Jim reads the male poets, Patricia the female. Each poet is introduced by myself with a very brief biographical note.

My own description of the CD, as printed in the CD insert booklet, is reproduced below.

To purchase a copy of the CD using one of the big four credit cards (MasterCard, VISA, Discover Card or American Express), click on the "Buy Now" button below. To purchase by any other means, send an email with subject line "36 Great American Poems" to the email address on my home page.


[From the liner notes:]

My intention in compiling this CD has been simply to present to listeners an assortment of the best poems written by Americans (defined to mean citizens of the United States — or, for the period before that concept was coined, English-speaking inhabitants of the original colonies).

"Best" of course involves some value judgments. I have stuck mostly to the least controversial approach, taking "best" to mean "best known." Since hardly any poems are very well known nowadays by the American public — precisely the situation I am trying to remedy! — that itself begs some questions. For the nineteenth century I have rested on the judgment of our great-grandparents, who did know lots of poetry and whose taste was, for the most part, pretty sound. I may perhaps have leaned a little toward my own favorites (Longfellow, Poe) and away from those poets more favored by the current Eng. Lit. clerisy (Whitman, Dickinson), but I believe everyone is fairly represented. For more recent poets I have perforce been thrown back more on my own judgment, which I believe to be that of an intelligent, non-ideological lover of beautiful lines.

The majority of pieces here are extracts from longer poems — an approach forced on me by the need to fit a wide selection on a single CD. I have tried to extract carefully, with no jarring breaks of sound or sense. I have not meant to imply that the attention span of late twentieth century listeners is too brief to endure the whole of "Thanatopsis" or "The Raven." If the purchaser of my CD finds one of my extracts to her liking, I hope she will go to the original and read it all through. That is exactly what I hope, in fact; this is a work of proselytizing, of propaganda — propaganda for beautiful verse.