Friday, July 9, 2010


I've been a fan of Natalie Merchant since near the beginning, and many of her songs with the band 10,000 Maniacs are in my top 50 of all time (however, do not ask me to list my Top 50 of All Time; I'm nowhere near ready to commit. But "These Are Days" is in the Top Ten). Today I'm finally getting around to enjoying a (March) birthday present from my mother: Natalie's new project, Leave Your Sleep.

Leave Your Sleep is a collection of 26 songs, all of them composed around poems by a wide variety of well- and lesser-known poets including Rachel Field, Jack Prelutsky (the only one still living), Ogden Nash and Eleanor Farjeon. The year-long project "represents parts of a long conversation I've had with daughter during the first six years of her life."

The two CDs come packaged in a fetching small book which includes short biography and a black-and-white portrait of each poet--a treasure trove for anyone who has wondered, like me, why more popular songs aren't set to poems.

Easily my favorite so far is "maggie and milly and molly and may"--lyrics by e. e. cummings, a poet also dear to my heart. Click here to listen to a snippet of this lovely piece that gives, as my own read-alouds often fail to do, a seemingly simple narrative poem all the glow and gravitas in the atmosphere as it has inside us.

maggie and milly and molly and may
~ e. e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea


  1. Hi Heidi!
    I love Natalie Merchant, too. "Kind and Generous" is one of my favorite songs. And the e.e.cummings poem rings true. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. This is one of my favorite cummings poems too. I have never heard it put to music so thanks!


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