from their flat, yellowed pages

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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9 thoughts on “from their flat, yellowed pages

  1. I’ve always loved her voice and am thrilled she has recorded a collection of poems. It could be the perfect way to spark an interest in reading poetry for listeners. Kudos to Natalie and to Cynthia.

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  2. This sounds wonderful. Adding it to my wish list. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I love her voice and I love poetry. What a lovely combination.

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  3. Great post! I’ve been waiting for this next album. She’s one of my favorite vocalists and has been since back to 10,000 Maniacs in the 1980s. Interesting interview and concept. My tween daughter has to see the clip about the child poet. After listening on her website, I’m buying this one.

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  4. And once again, you introduce me to something wonderful, Cynthia!

    I loved Natalie’s work, but I’ve let myself drift from music in the last few years. I listened to the sound bytes at her website and I am definitely buying this CD set. I expect it to be quite inspirational.

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  5. Thanks, Darrelyn. I woke up this morning with the words of “The Land of Nod” floating through my head.

    Teresa, judging from your recent post on Paddington Bear, I think you and your daughter could enjoy this collection together.

    Sarah, Nathalia Crane published her first book of poetry when she was 11. Amazing. And her poem, “The Janitor’s Boy” is light and lovely.

    Linda, I’m so glad. I do think it’s wonderful. I hope you enjoy the book and the music.

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  6. Pingback: Leave Your Sleep … and write a poem | Out of My Mind

  7. Pingback: time to adapt again | catching days

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