American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century
American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (The Voyager Co.) offers over a thousand poems by all the regulars: Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, et al. You’ll also find an extensive collection of American Indian poetry, folk and parlor songs, spirituals, and works by some lesser known American poets. Along with detailed biographies of all the poets, typically accompanied by photographs, there’s an extensive chronology which details the events, large and small, in both poetry and the poet’s lives throughout the 19th Century. True, all of this could probably be found in some books somewhere, so why buy the CD-ROM? Well, to begin with, the single disc won’t take up a foot of your bookshelf – but the fact of the matter is that the combination of poems, folk material, and background information on this disc wouldn’t be found in any traditional book-form anthology. And then of course there’s the audio component over 6 hours of audio readings, including performances of many of the spirituals and the folk songs. If you want you can browse just the audio selections by jumping from one audio performance to the next. The linear motion of this CD-ROM obviously derives from a traditional book layout and gets a little tedious. What’s missing here (not surprisingly) are visuals. Other than the bio photos and some Hallmark-style pink landscape backgrounds, the program offers no more than any batch of books would (and possibly less). What about related historic photos, or even just plain old theme-related photos? But while Voyagerhas ignored a major multimedia ingredient, this disc is still a definite improvement over traditional book or audio anthologies…just not nearly as big an improvement as it could have been.
– February 1996