In North America, Thomas Hardy is better known for his novels than for his poems, but Hardy himself prized his verse more, and this recording demonstrates the breadth and depth of his achievement as a poet.
It features compelling performances of more than 70 of Hardy's poems by two distinguished British actors, Bruce Alexander and Janet Maw. Hardy wrote the earliest of these as a teenager and the last of them some seven decades later. Carefully-chosen excerpts from Hardy's autobiography and the writings of his first wife, Emma, help place trace the biographical sources of many of the poems.
What's most impressive is Hardy's versatility: of the 70-odd poems here, no two use the same form, and the subjects range from the joys of young love to the wistful resignation of the poet, in his eighties, musing on fate and change.
When the Academy of American Poets asked me to name ten poetry recordings that every library should have, for a feature on their web site, this was one of my choices.