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The Language of Life

A Festival of Poets
Length: 7 hrs and 9 mins

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Publisher's Summary

"Poets live the lives all of us live," says Bill Moyers, "with one big difference. They have the power - the power of the word - to create a world of thoughts and emotions other can share. We only have to learn to listen."

In a series of fascinating conversations with 34 American poets, The Language of Life celebrates language in its "most exalted, wrenching, delighted, and concentrated form," and its unique power to re-create the human experience: falling in love, facing death, leaving home, playing basketball, losing faith, finding God. 

Listening to Linda McCarriston's award-winning poems about a child trapped in a violent home, or to Jimmy Santiago Baca explaining how words changed his life in prison, or to David Mura describing his Japanese American grandfather's experience in relocation camps, or to Sekou Sundiata stitching the magic of his childhood church in Harlem to the African tradition of storytelling, or to Gary Snyder invoking the natural wonder of mountains and rivers, or to Adrienne Rich calling for honesty in human relations, all testify to the necessity and clarity of the poet's voice, and all give hope that from such a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and religious threads we might yet weave a new American fabric. 

"'Listen,' said the storytellers of old, 'listen and you shall hear,'" explains Bill Moyers. 

The Language of Life is a joyous, life-affirming invitation to listen, learn, and experience the exhilarating power of the spoken word. 

©1995 Public Affairs Television, Inc. and David Grubin Productions, Inc. Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, A Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing Group, Inc. (P)1995 Public Affairs Television, Inc. and David Grubin Productions, Inc. Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, A Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing Group, Inc.
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Deanna O'Shaughnessy
  • Deanna O'Shaughnessy
  • 19-11-2004


This series, "Language of Life", though "only about poetry", was not only life-changing for me, but also ~ literally ~ for several of my friends who heard it. Coleman Barks' presentation of Rumi's poetry was exquisite and very moving. I have heard other productions of Barks reading Rumi's poetry, but none of them captured the magic as this presentation does. There is amazing life, vibrancy, passion and humor throughout all of the poets' presentations. As one poet says in the interviews, listening to a poet read his or her own words is like "fireworks for the ears". The performance poetry in this series will forever alter your perception of poetry, and will light a fire under the idea that language is your power, too. This series gorgeously illustrates that, as Rumi says, there are hundreds of ways "to kneel and kiss the ground."

22 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • vasilios
  • 19-03-2015

Politics and art are a bad mix

The title deceived me. I thought it was about life in the broadest sense but this collection of brief interactions with so-called minority and feminist poets and samples of their work was heavily biased toward a minority anti-American, anti-White, narrowed perspective of poetry and art... I am not american and was looking for poetry with more transcendent qualities, able to get beyond surface preoccupations... If this collection represents the best of American poetry then the art is in trouble of being underwhelmed by mediocrity... Bill movers didn't challenge these political ideologues enough because just wanted his show done and dusted, it seems... Disappointing in the extreme...

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Alyssa
  • 27-08-2009

The Language of Boredom

If you left English class with an indifferent attitude about poetry this collection will only serve to convince of the complete idiocy of the art form. Listening to these poets read their work in a breathless pretentious "I'm reading poetry! How inspiring!" voice while bad music played behind them utterly failed to change my life in any way. Though it did convince me that if you're trying for a global language of life it's probably music without words. I don't understand writing just for the fun of ignoring syntax; if you're going for rhythm pick up a drum.

1 person found this helpful