Monday, April 26, 2010

Poetry Sings!

I think "Leave your sleep" has all the hallmarks of a brilliant project by Natalie Merchant, who is a musical artist I very much enjoy.

Several years ago, maybe 7ish?, there was a book published called Poetry Speaks, which had a broad selection of audio recordings of famous poetry read by the poets themselves. It was a fun way to experience poetry--certainly more varied than hearing myself read them (in my own head).

But Natalie Merchant adds a whole new dimension...multiple dimensions in fact to the first selecting a set of poems based on a theme just like an anthology of short stories (in this case on the theme of childhood/motherhood) and then putting the poems to music and singing what I guess could be called "songetry".

It is a mashup of musical and vocal composition (always present to some degree in singing) which adds tone and color that fleshes out a poetical anthology. Poems of course already have a rhythm and measure and character--but it has always lacked a dimension. Hearing the poems set to music is like going to watch a play performed, when one is accustomed to only reading the play on paper.

I've always understood that poetry (good poetry at least) takes fantastic skill to produce, but by and large its never really grabbed me the way other art forms do. While the content of poems is incredibly varied, the artform itself seems somehow constrained. This project of Natalie Merchant really opens up the artform.

It is a brilliant concept and hopefully Merchant keeps going and other artists find ways to build out the path Merchant has begun to explore.


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