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The History of English Poetry

Narrated by: Derek Jacobi
Length: 8 hrs and 5 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (53 ratings)

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Summary

English literature is a treasure trove of wonderful poetry. From Shakespeare to Milton, Keats to Shelley and Tennyson to Yeats, this accessible history (especially written for Naxos Audiobooks) introduces the listener to countless small masterpieces, including all the old favorites and some lesser-known gems.

Whitfield explores this most expressive of art forms and traces the historical development of a rich and diverse canon of poetical works. The lyrical powers of the most remarkable poets of the English language are illustrated with over 70 extracts.

This is the latest release from Naxos Audiobooks' successful History series, which includes accounts of English literature, theatre, and opera.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2009 Naxos Audiobooks (P)2009 Naxos Audiobooks

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

An Excellent introduction

I was expecting an anthology but this is a narrative history of the arts with examples read to illustrate the story. For a person like me who has little understanding of poetry this reaally gives a great overview. It is very well read by the narrator as well. It left me wanting to listen to more poetry

17 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 09-05-15

profoundly illuminating and worth every penny

I struggled to understand poetry before this book but brilliantly explained and narrated a revelation

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A useful overview but opinionated and shallow.

This gives a useful broad view of the whole of English poetry but nothing more imo. Given its breadth it might be forgiven for its lack of depth but the writer is opinionated too and this combination results in some startling admissions of lack of understanding. He says that Ted Hughes’ poetry, for example, is about violence in animals and doesn’t mean much beyond that. Really, Hughes’ poetry challenges human moral pretension and anthropocentrism by presenting unsentimental but inspiring vignettes of nature, I.e. of reality. This is pretty significant, I think. The writer says several times that given writings are difficult to understand these days, as if this is their fault, so this underestimation of what he writes about is not limited to Hughes but is a general characteristic of the book. There are no close analyses or observations about actual pieces of poetry either, which adds to the sense of shallowness and accentuates the impression of opinionatedness. The reading by Derek Jacobi is very good but the hammy readings of American poetry are hopeless.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ms
  • 09-11-15

For Those With a Serious Interest in the Subject

Would you listen to The History of English Poetry again? Why?

Yes, but only to dip in and out of parts that might be relevant.

What other book might you compare The History of English Poetry to, and why?

A Way With Words IV By Prof Michael D.C Drout. Some of the same ground is covered, but from different angles.

What does Derek Jacobi bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He brings to life what might otherwise be quite dry.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No - Far too long for that and I also wanted to seek out some of the poets mentioned.

Any additional comments?

It's a good history to & introduction. Not all of it is appealing to me, but there's a lot packed in & is a good introduction. I was a little surprised by the detour to the USA & I'm not convinced it's relevancy back to English poetry was totally smooth.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great survey of poetry

This book covers a brief history of English poetry from beowulf to the 1960's encompassimg English and American poets. Lucid commentary and good readings from Jacob. Could have done with a little more poetry and less commentary perhaps. But you certainly get the sweep of history and poetic movements. Peters out after modernism, thankfully because who wants a disjointed narrative of postmodernism.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enchanting, informative, re-awakened a love

My interest in poetry had waned in recent years but listening to this book has inspired me to seek out more, Blake, Tennyson, Plath the full canon. My imagination has been restoked.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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mesmerising

As someone who likes poetry but never studied it I found this audio book superb
I learnt so much discovered truly outstanding works all delivered by a fantastic narrator whose voice was sublime

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointed! no english women poets in this!

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I would have liked to have seen more than a fleeting reference to the contribution of women poets. It took until near the end of the book in the chapter on American poetry for women poets to get even a slight look in!
The chapter on modern poetry missed an opportunity to include many fantastic women poets as well!

Would you ever listen to anything by Peter Whitfield again?

No

What aspect of Derek Jacobi’s performance might you have changed?

The narrator performed well

2 people found this helpful