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The Poets' Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  174 reviews
From listening to his grandmother recite epic poems from memory to curling up in bed while his father read funny verses, award-winning actor John Lithgow grew up with poetry. Ever since, John has been an enthusiastic seeker of poetic experience, whether reading, reciting, or listening to great poems.

The wide variety of carefully selected poems in this book provides the
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published November 15th 2007 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1994)
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Mark Here's a list. Each line that follows is [poet], [poem], [reader]. (Billy Connolly and Morgan Freeman in particular are fantastic.)

Matthew Arnold,…more
Here's a list. Each line that follows is [poet], [poem], [reader]. (Billy Connolly and Morgan Freeman in particular are fantastic.)

Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach", Eileen Atkins
W.H. Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts", Jodie Foster
John Berryman, "Dream Song 76: Henry's Confession", Gary Sinise
Elizabeth Bishop, "Filling Station", Glenn Close
William Blake, "The Tyger", Helen Mirren
Gwendolyn Brooks, "We Real Cool", Morgan Freeman
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "How Do I Love Thee", Helen Mirren
Robert Burns, "To a Mouse", Billy Connolly
Lord Byron, "I would I were a careless child", Robert Sean Leonard
Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky", Eileen Atkins
Geoffrey Chaucer, "The General Prologue", Lynn Redgrave
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla Khan", Robert Sean Leonard
Hart Crane, "To Brooklyn Bridge", Sam Waterston
E.E. Cummings, "if everything happens that can't be done", Eileen Atkins
Emily Dickinson, "There is no Frigate like a Book", Glenn Close
John Donne, "Song (Go and catch a falling star)", John Lithgow
T.S. Eliot, "Rhapsody on a Windy Night", Morgan Freeman
Robert Frost, "Birches", John Lithgow
William S. Gilbert, "Love Unrequited, or the Nightmare Song", John Lithgow
Allen Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California", "Gary Sinise
Robert Herrick, "The Beggar to Mab, the Fairy Queen", Billy Connolly
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty", Kathy Bates
A.E. Houseman, "When I was one-and-twenty", Robert Sean Leonard
Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues", Morgan Freeman
Randall Jarrell, "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", Gary Sinise
Ben Johnson, "Inviting a Friend to Supper", Robert Sean Leonard
John Keats, "To Autumn", Lynn Redgrave
Philip Larkin, "Days", Susan Sarandon
Edward Lear, "The Owl and the Pussycat", Billy Connolly
Henry W. Longfellow, "A Psalm of Life", John Lithgow
Robert Lowell, "The Public Garden", Billy Connolly
Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress", John Lithgow
Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Love is not all", Jodie Foster
Marianne Moore, "Poetry", Kathy Bates
Ogden Nash, "No Doctors Today, Thank You", John Lithgow
Dorothy Parker, "Afternoon", Glenn Close
Edgar Allen Poe, "Annabel Lee", Sam Waterston
Ezra Pound, "The River Merchant's Wife: a Letter", Jodie Foster
Christina Rosetti, "Up-Hill", Helen Mirren
Carl Sandburg, "Chicago", Gary Sinise
William Shakespeare, "Fear no more the heat o' the sun", Lynn Redgrave
Percy B. Shelley, "To a Skylark", Glenn Close
Edmund Spencer, "Sonnet LXXV", Susan Sarandon
Gertrude Stein, "If I Told Him", Kathy Bates
Wallace Stevens, "The Emperor of Ice-Cream", Kathy Bates
Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night", Susan Sarandon
Walt Whitman, "There Was a Child Went Forth", Sam Waterston
William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow", Jodie Foster
Willam Wordsworth, "I wandered lonely as a cloud", Helen Mirren
William Butler Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", Eileen Atkins(less)

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Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't care much for poetry, but I think that's due to ignorance & trying to read it incorrectly. I thought this might help me along a bit & it did. Lithgow did a great job listing his favorite poets in alphabetical order. I liked that order since it skipped around in history & separated the various styles so none became burdensome. He makes poetry understandable & accessible, even the weirdest like Gloria Stein, although I'll make sure to avoid her work in the future.

One of the
Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 220, nonfiction, poetry
Actor and author John Lithgow presents poems by many of his favorite poets, enhancing the listener’s experience with biographical and critical commentary.

Lithgow provides an inviting introduction to the work of his favorite poets. For each poet he sketches a brief biography, including critical comments on the poet’s work and place in the literary world. He follows the biography with a reading and discussion of one poem, and concludes by reading another poem and listing favorite poems of the
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a personal-favorite-collection by Lithgow, organized by the last names of the poets, which rendered this book more suitable as a reference. Since this collection is "family-friendly", it is easy-listening and very little to offend. However, even within its narrowly defined purpose and its gingerly politeness, I have found two merits worth noting: one, succinct references of poets and notable poems; two, its accompanied readings from various actors such as Helen Mirren, Morgan Freedman, ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure there are adequate superlatives to describe this treasure. John Lithgow talks us through the lives and works of fifty of history's greatest poets. From Shakespeare to Yeats, Dylan Thomas to Edna St. Vincent Millay. Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsburg, Whitman, Dorothy Parker, Eliot, e.e. cummings... It's an embarrassment of riches.

Sure, there are noticeable omissions, but as a primer for adults and young people, I can't imagine a more accessible, fun volume. Lithgow is
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Finished: 02.11.2018
Genre: poetry
Rating: B
Relaxing audio book perfect for bed-time listening!
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, audiobook
Four stars for the content of the book itself, elevated to five stars for the audiobook version or for print copies that still have the accompanying CD, because trust me, you have not lived until you've heard Billy Connolly reading Robert Burns' "To a Mouse". What an absolute blast that was to hear. His reading of Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat" is also lots of fun; I played those tracks easily three or four times over before allowing myself to move on to the next poem. Morgan Freeman's ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Oh my. Get this as an audio book. With guest readers like Morgan Freeman, Susan Sarandon, Gary Sinese and Helen Mirren this is an amazing anthology.

Some of these poems I studied over 40 years ago and yet with the first line or title, it came back to me and the joy of listening to really excellent readers was unexpected and invigorating.

Lithgow's unapologetic admiration for the poetry form and his love of many, diverse poets is much appreciated.

The book is laid out alphabetically by
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I suppose the word “family” is in the title because there is some nonsense poetry included and because of Lithgow’s grandfatherly tone. But if I were trying to introduce my children to poetry, this is not the selection I would choose because of the inclusion of modern poetry with its clunky rythms and obtuse meanings. (If someone has to explain a poem to you before you can like it, you have already missed much of the magic, soul-touching quality of poetry.)

The positive side of this mixture of
I've never really been a John Lithgow fan, but after listening to him read his book, I count him as an enriching friend in my life. Ha! He starts off with an introduction about why he compiled this book of 50 poets and their poems. Then he give a little biography of each poet, reads 1-2 poems (or has famous people read them), and then concludes with a little explanation of why he loves it.

I can not describe how soothing and sometimes thrilling and touching it was to listen to this in my car
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good read—a romp in the amusement park, as it were. It rekindled the love of poetry (and the writing thereof) that I had as a kid. The best thing about this book is that I got a chance to hear some brilliant poetry brilliantly read by brilliant interpreters.

I read the book as well as listened to the audiobook. My only wish was to have had more of the guest readers read these works and have Lithgow moderate and read an occasional piece or two. John rounded off each chapter by
Nov 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I was curious to see Lithgow's take on classic poetry. He has included a good selection of the usual English language poets (mostly white, all dead, but not all men) with 1-2 poems from each. Lithgow uses a folksy, personal experience-with-each-poet narrative that would especially appeal to his fans. It's billed as book that will help families read poetry together, but some of his choices of poems seemed odd for that. I was often disappointed not to find MY favorite of a particular poet's work, ...more
Diana Long
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This work really has me excited...I absolutely loved every minute of this just over 6 hour audio. I should have dubbed it a history of poetry and very educational as well. Not only is this a wonderful introduction to poetry but also highlights the writers who felt compelled to write beautiful inspiring words that have lasted through time. Some of the poets featured have been gone some 400 plus years but their words transcend time. Listen to the poems performed by such notable entertainment ...more
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: circle
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Leonardo da Vinci

It was such a pleasure reading this eclectic collection of poetry, ranging from sparkling to somber, from Auden and Blake to Wordsworth and Yeats. It's really a great gift for a dad to share with the family.

Each of the 50 chapters provides a short back story on a famed poet, one, two or three of her/his poems, followed by a brief epilogue.

These poems and poets reminded me of
Ray Otus
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, poetry
If you want an introduction to poetry, you could hardly do better than picking this up as an audiobook. Lithgow gives you a short biography of dozens of poets, followed by a poem or two (read by himself or other voices), followed by suggestions for other poems to read if you happened to like the samples. A great survey, perfectly read.
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good and enjoyable introduction to poetry

While this may be basic to lovers of poetry, the intent is to give an enjoyable overview much like an album of classical music's greatest hits.
David West
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, poetry
This was a good audiobook. Lithgow has gathered a wonderful collection of poems and some very good voice actors and put them together. His commentary on the poems was very helpful. I found some poems in here that I want to memorize.
Simon Bullock
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful assortment of poems from an eclectic range of sources and periods. While Gertrude Stein may be revered for her editorial clout, I can't say I'm a fan of her poetic works after my brief introduction in this compendium.
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is a delightful collection. I listened to the audiobook and Lithgow recruited many friends to read the poems beautifully. I highly recommend.
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a 5 star book from the very first page to the very last! Cannot recommend it highly enough, especially on audiobook!
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books-audio
Really nice collection and discussion of poetry and poets. The poems on the audiobook are also read by a stellar cast. Great audiobook.
Alexánder Obando
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not a run off the mill anthology. Lithgow and the cast of readers have given true life to this collection of masterpieces. It has been a true pleasure to read and listen to it.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This audiobook was a very high 4 for me. Lithgow attempted quite a feat of popular appeal with poetry, and I greatly respect his welcoming approach.

Like others, I thought "The one-and-only poetry book for the whole family" was immodest and misleading. The poems here include language made difficult both by historical distance and by modern and unwelcoming styles. The "family" he refers to would need to include children no younger than high-school, I'd say.

Still, I found Lithgow's concise
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
DEFINITELY listen to the audio book version. John Lithgow reads ~60+% of the poems, but also has some excellent guest-readers. The audio book is very well put together. For each of the 50 poets, when a new poem begins, a new track begins, so you can 'go back' and listen to it again. I would listen to a poem followed by John Lithgow's heartfelt and well-thought critique, and then listen to it again, and then move on. Most poets have a 2nd poem read. These are great examples for everyone to listen ...more
Linda Hartlaub
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
John Lithgow has definitely made this book an introduction to some of the great poets that the entire family can enjoy. Fifty poets listed alphabetically, rather than chronologically, allow the reader to dip in at any point or read straight through if you prefer.

Each poet includes a short biography written by Mr. Lithgow and five of his favorite poems listed for each poet, in case you wish to delve further into their works. Some profiles include quotes from the poet, or in a few cases, a
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
What a delightful book! Not only are we treated to some fine poetry but also a glimpse into the poets' lives. John Lithgow somehow manages, in just a few paragraphs, to give us some insight into what might have shaped each poets writing. Some of the poems featured were old favorites of mine (The Tyger by William Blake, Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll and The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams to name a few). Others, completely new to me, were just as riveting. That's not to say I liked them ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

The Poets’ Corner is a compilation of poems across different centuries. I love how I was introduced to all these poets whom I have never heard of before (which I’m quite sorry for) and how there were familiar ones whom I have already grown to
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a really lovely, truly unique anthology in which Lithgow has collected his favorite poetry to read aloud. All of the poems do indeed sound beautiful when read, but Lithgow also manages give his audience a crash course in reading and loving poetry. His clear, concise explications of each poem show their meaning for him - he makes personal connections, illuminates themes, and makes each poem relevant so that even the most reluctant reader of poetry can see the beauty in the most difficult ...more
Crystal Marie
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I think it helps to be a fan of John Lithgow too. I like his storytelling of his childhood weaved into the poems. One reader criticized "too much Lithgow and not enough poetry!" However, I liked his commentary and stories. He gave an introduction for each poet, then the poem is read, followed by more commentary from Lithgow, then he lists other favorite poems by that particular author. Lots of favorite familiar poems and some new ones too, so it was delightful. 50 poets in all ...more
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was the best "intro to poetry" book I've
come across, not because it was so detailed, but actually because it wasn't. The book gave a brief introduction to a particular poet (including key characteristics of his/her writing), one short poem by that individual followed by a very short and folksy reaction/analysis to the poem, a second work by the poet with no analysis, and then it was on to the next poet. It was just enough for a reader to become familiar with the names and styles of some of
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
I purchased the CD version of this book to listen to on the drive back from Florida. It was a great listen. John Lithgow and friends take the poems we all remember as dull and stoggy things we had to read in school and infuses them with enthusiasm and freshness. Having a poem properly read alound makes all the difference in the world. And Lithgow provides some analysis and interesting tidbits about the authors of each poem. All in all, while most poems were not my preferred style of poetry, ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Poet's Corner - Lithgow - 5 stars 4 12 Oct 08, 2018 01:40PM  

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John Lithgow is a prolific actor with two Tonys, six Emmys, two Golden Globes, and two Oscar nominations to his name. He has starred in the hit TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dexter, and The Crown, and in beloved films like The World According to Garp, Shrek, and Terms of Endearment. Lithgow has appeared on Broadway twenty-five times and in England with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the ...more