Books: Spoken Word

Poetry Quartets Bloodaxe Books, c 2 hrs, pounds 11.70
IN THEIR Poetry Quartets, Bloodaxe Books are systematically recording living poets talking about and reading their work. Each poet gets one side of a cassette, so each set of two tapes offers four contrasted poets. It is a marvellous way of getting to know poets one loves better, and of being introduced to new friends. The latest two issues in the series are most notable for Elizabeth Jennings, reading with lucid honesty, UA Fanthorpe, wry and irrepressible, and Brendan Kennelly, whose unique voice deserves much wider fame.

Beowulf (Faber/ Penguin, 2 hrs, pounds 8.99) is a singing work of poetry that begs to be heard, but which many of us know only by repute. Seamus Heaney softens the harshness of the original by using romance as well as Anglo- Saxon word forms. His voice is that of bard rather than warrior, weary rather than exultant. But then Beowulf is not after all a tale of glory, but an elegy of resignation.