Interpeting Poetry as Song

Poetry and song are never too far away from each other… as Ezra Pound famously quoted, “poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music…”

So when I read recently that The Waterboys were setting a number of Yeats’ poems to music as part of their show An Appointment With Mr Yeats, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The Waterboys are one of those bands that transport me back to my early teens – in 1985 I was madly in love with their song The Whole of the Moon and  even now it gives me that giddy floating feeling .

The smile on my face was particularly wide because I just knew in my gut that in the hands of Mike Scott, often descirbed as more of a poet than a songwriter, Yeats would really sing (and you can check this out for yourself  in this clip from the show and this review) and I could not help but think of my first year as Director of QLD Poetry Festival in 2004 when I had the opportunity to commission Katie Noonan and her band Elixir to present a concert of songs based on the poetry of Thomas Shapcott.

The end result was a night I will never forget… Thomas would read his poem, sitting side of stage on a stool and the band would look over at him, wide-eyed with amazement as if hearing the words for the very first time, then they would perform the lyrics and Thomas would return the same astonished grin. The true magic of the collaborative process played itself out on the stage that night… and it was a thing of rare beauty. 

So with memories of that show warming my heart, I just had to include a link to one of the tracks that was later recorded for their Live at The Cornish Arms album. Here is Last Night’s Comfort… hope it gives you all the same warm glow it gives me.



Filed under poetry & publishing, who listens to the radio?

2 responses to “Interpeting Poetry as Song

  1. ‘The whole of the moon’ takes me back a bit – great song. I would have loved to see Shapcott’s work being performed – I am just reading Shabbytown Calender (even though it’s Ipswich it still has a Brisbane feel about it – or a Qld feel I suppose).

    • gnunn

      Yeah it as amazing song. The Shapcott/Elixir gig will always stay with me. It remains one of the most special collaborations I have witnessed on a stage.

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