Today, because of this early experience with memorizing poetry, I can still remember whole pages of Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," among many other poems no one seems to pay much attention to anymore. Memorizing poems as a kid and, moreover, reciting them, instilled in me a love of language. It also trained my ear. Although my powers of memorization have now declined, I still like to test myself from time to time. At a recent public reading of Whittier's "Snow-Bound" I closed the text before me and simply recited the last six minutes of the poem from memory as a dare to myself. I am as proud of those six minutes as I am of anything else I have done in my life.
In 2005, 217 Records released my reading of Whittier's "Snow-Bound," as Volume One of the Whittier Bicentennial Recording Project. This recording features a wonderful essay by the estimable Brenda Wineapple and employs sections of Charles Ives's Piano Sonata No. 2 "The Concord Sonata." In Volume Two “Barbara Frietchie & Other Poems” we use music as well. I have chosen music that, I hope, adds something to the story and feeling each poem conveys without diluting Whittier’s intent. Speaking of works of genius, there are at least three masterpieces among the poems collected on this recording: "Hampton Beach," "Maud Muller," and "Burning Driftwood." I have chosen these and the other poems in this collection carefully…I might also say, painfully...as there were many more poems that I wanted to share with you than would fit on one CD.