I am listening to Bread & Steel: Illinois Poets Reading from Their Works. This is my fourth time through the twenty-four poems on the CD, and at this point I am developing favorites. The lead track "Benediction" by Stuart Dybek is mighty fine, full of sharp images, flash and sound. I marvel at how in "Oceans of Grass" Edward Hirsch can tell such a moving story in only sixty-eight seconds. "Bath" by John Knoepfle remembers a story about Abraham Lincoln, very appropriate for an Illinois poetry collection. In "Sufficiency of the Actual" Kevin Stein tells us the lessons we can learn from injured crickets and the members of the rock group The Who. Martha Vertreace-Doody brings Chicago and Bagdad dangerously together in "Walking under Night Sky."
Bread & Steel reminds me of a sample record album I acquired from Atlantic Records when I was a teen. On it were songs by Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Cream, the Young Rascals, and others. Like that album, Bread & Steel has a variety of voices, rhythms, moods, and messages. Like the album, I enjoy listening over and over again. I hear something new every time.
For centuries, poetry has been collected in and retrieved from books. Since poetry should be read aloud and heard, it seems to me the audio-formats deliver what books can not. Perhaps, at this point in history, publishers should start to include a CD of the poet reading with every print volume of poetry. We could all listen while we drive or garden.
In the meantime, public libraries, especially in Illinois, should get Bread & Steel, which is for sale by Bradley University.