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The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them    edited by Jason Shinder order for
Poem I Turn To
by Jason Shinder
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Poem I Turn To, forty-two actors and directors - including Alan Arkin, Daryl Hannah, Eve Ensler, John Landis and John Lithgow - share with readers and listeners the poems they turn to for nourishment and renewal. Accompanying the book is an audio CD, in which contributors read thirty of their personal favorites.

I love the opening quote in which Thomas A. Edison concludes 'Inventors must be poets so they may have imagination.' In his Introduction, editor Jason Shinder makes the excellent point that 'By sharing the poems they turn to, and commenting on their choices, the contributors in this book offer testimony to our essential human need for contemplation in a world in which the velocity and volume of experience are often overwhelming.'

So what are these actors' and directors' picks? It's an eclectic selection, ranging from classics - like W. B. Yeats' Lake Isle of Innisfree, John Masefield's Sea-Fever and Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken - to a number of contemporary poems I'd never encountered before opening the book. I enjoyed Alan Arkin's selection of Rumi's The Guest House which begins: 'This being human is a guest house. / Every morning a new arrival. / A joy, a depression, a meanness, / Some momentary awareness comes / As an unexpected visitor.'

John Landis' selection of Mark Twain's War Prayer seems particularly apropos today: 'Help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief'. As does Holland Taylor's choice of Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est (which she reads aloud magnificently and with great feeling): 'If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs / ... / you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.'

But just like those who contributed to The Poem I Turn To, you'll find the ones that speak to you most strongly - as you read, listen, and are inspired by this thoughtfully chosen poetry collection.

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