Two years ago, at a librarian conference, I had the unexpected pleasure of hearing Natalie Merchant sing. I didn’t really know much about her, since I wasn’t much of a 10,000 Maniacs fan, but I was blown away by her performance of poetry put to music and since then I’ve taken advantange of any opportunity to hear her. (But I digress from my point.)
Natalie Merchant loves words and she used to recite poetry to her young daughter. In 2010, she recorded a CD, Leave Your Sleep, in which she put to music 26 poems of poets known and obscure. It was the culmination of years of research, finding the poems, digging out biographical information on the poets, some of whom wrote poetry as a sideline or hobby. The result is a marvelous listening adventure; one I constantly go back to.
But, Ms. Merchant didn’t leave it at that because she understands that sometimes artistry is enhanced by the combination of mediums. Today I received my copy of Leave Your Sleep, the picture book, illustrated by the award winning Barbara McClintock. It is a beautiful book in which 19 of the poems on her CD are written out with colorful illustrations. It is a delight for the eyes. Along with the book is a CD of Ms. Merchant singing these songs. In her introduction, Ms. Merchant writes “Poetry speaks of so much: longing and sadness, joy and beauty, hope and disillusionment…But poetry on the page can be difficult to penetrate; sometimes it needs to be heard.” Or accompanied by illustrations. Leave Your Sleep, both the book and the CD, are the perfect blend of media to bring out the best of these poems.
On December 1, I’m going to hear Ms. Merchant sing some of these songs accompanied by an orchestra. What a perfect way to hear poetry!!! Leave Your Sleep is the perfect gift for a child of any age. That’s why I treated myself.