About a year ago, I went along to a near-capacity crowded Usher Hall in Edinburgh to hear Natalie Merchant and her band play through much of her new album, Leave Your Sleep, in which she had set poems (mainly based around a theme of childhood) to music. You can hear excerpts from it here. Before each song, she talked about the poet and why she had chosen this particular poem. Some of the poets were well known and others neglected or forgotten, but the show – words, photos and music – brought them to life again. She had an obvious enthusiasm and passion for poetry which she was able to communicate to her audience, not all of whom would have read much poetry.
Earlier this year, I journeyed through to the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow to see The Waterboys. The band weren’t playing their hit songs, but performed a show of entirely new material. At least, the music was new. The words were written by WB Yeats. Mike Scott (who basically is The Waterboys) said he had wanted to do this for years due to his love of Yeats’ poetry. It was a terrific gig, and you can see/hear a few moments from it at this link. As I left I heard someone say that they were going to get a book by Yeats and read the poems, and that “I’ve never been much into poetry before, but I’d love to read that stuff.”
Last month, I was listening to Golden Key, a wonderful new CD by Mirabeau. It’s haunting acoustic music, mainly fingerpicking guitars (Caroline Trettine and Ian Kearey), also featuring a woman with a fantastic singing voice (the aforementioned Trettine) and spoken passages from poet, Richard Price. Examples can be found via the previous link and at the band’s MySpace site. Some of the lyrics were previously featured in Price’s last poetry collection, Rays, published by Carcanet.
I wonder what you think of all this. Is it a good way to get people interested in poetry? Do those of you who love poetry and read it regularly feel you’d like to hear more of this kind of thing? Or does music actually get in the way of how poems normally communicate – words alone breaking into silence? Does anyone now feel tempted to wipe the dust from their electric guitar and get their old band back together to record musical versions of their own poems, or other people’s poems?