Monday, April 19, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant is one of my absolute favorite singers. I especially cherish the music of the 10,000 Maniacs, but have also loved her solo projects. I was fairly certain she had fallen off the face of the earth, so long had it been since there was anything new from her. But the other day I was reading a message board (remember those?) and happened to stumble onto the news that she had a new project.

And what a project! As soon as I read the details, I fell in love with the concept. Her new album is called Leave Your Sleep and is poetry to put to music. She has adapted several poems and put them to song. The result is a double disc collection, that is, in my own estimation, stunning. It is at times playful and sweet, at others it hints just a bit of something more.

Upon reading of the new album I had to have it immediately. I was surprised by how hard it was to find, (I wanted a physical copy and not just a download). I eventually was able to find the full collection at Barnes and Noble. (if you don't want to fork over the money, there's a one disc version as well.

I recommend the full collection, though, because it contains 26 poems put to song. Even more than that, there's a lovely gift book inside. It contains her thoughts on the project as well as short biographies of the many poets whose work is featured. I can't help but think that Natalie has given us a huge gift, that this ambitious 5 year project born out of teaching her daughter language and life through poetry has rescued for us, just a little bit, the lives and words and beauty of poetry.

Tears really came to my eyes when I read the following thoughts she has on poetry.

In spite of the fact that I have written song lyrics for thirty years, I'd never considered myself a poet or gave much of my time to reading poetry. I'm a late convert to the art form but now I understand that poets are our soft-spoken clairvoyants. They tell us about the things that have made us and kept us human. Poets are keepers of the sacred language that describes our holy language--unknown and unknowable. The poet holds the mirror that reflects the true shape and touch and taste and sound of all of the things that bind us together and keep us apart. The poet's language is putting silence around everything worth remembering.

I can't think of a more beautiful call to read poetry this month and always, to remember and treasure this art form and celebrate the gift that it is.

A special thanks to Natalie Merchant, for this reminder and for the pure joy of the music.


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