A Literary Tour

In her first album in 7 years, Natalie Merchant brings 26 poems to life…

“I pulled these obscure and eccentric poems off their flat, yellowed pages…”

With her young daughter in mind and often on her lap, Merchant was inspired to show her that “speech could be the most delightful toy in her possession.” I love her description of childhood with its nod to the underside of life:

“that time when we wake up to the great wonders and small terrors of this beautiful-horrible world of ours.”

An 80-page book comes with this 2-CD collection of 26 songs (so don’t download). It’s beautiful on the outside and the inside–with copies of the poems, pictures of the poets, and odd little details Merchant discovered as she delved deeper into the worlds of these artists.

One of my all-time favorite poems, “maggie and milly and molly and may,” by E. E. Cummings is included in the collection. “Estlin, as he was called,” she writes. And then,

“In just scratching the surface of his life I found this one lost and unrequited daughter.”

A new favorite, “The Land of Nod,” by Robert Louis Stevenson, put to music with a full orchestra and on top, Merchant’s voice light as frosting, gave me goose bumps. She writes of his gift of a piano to a leper colony he visited on route to Somoa and of his “trance-inducing doomed and luminous eyes.”

“I used music to enter these poems, and once inside I was able to understand how they were constructed with layers of feeling and meaning.”

I will leave you with this March 9, 2010 interview–Natalie speaking with Granta Magazine’s deputy editor Ellah Allfrey about Leave Your Sleep:

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