When I finished reading every single book in the juvenile section of our local library as a kid, the librarian suggested I move along to romantic fiction. There I discovered the timeless novels of Emily Brontë, Jane Austen and so many more. Later I discovered the poems by Emily and her sisters and felt pulled into their world of sweeping drama and story. Perhaps it was also their tragic history, all those deaths by tuberculosis that resonated with me as my mother struggled with the same dangerous illness.
As I started working with improvising melodies as a teen, I pulled out some of them and began singing. There’s something so angst-ridden, evocative and rhythmic that makes them easy to sing in any genre, and the words seem to contain melodies within them. And they lend themselves well to energetic free playing as I think to myself: what would Emily think of a punk version of her poems? And I wanted to sing songs that reflected the stories I loved as a girl, the female voices from my experience.
And so I’ve been singing them for decades now, in different contexts and you can find my versions of Brontë poems spread out over a series of recordings including Lone Jack Pine with Barre Phillips and Michel, also Unclouded Day with Mat Maneri, Raoul Björkenheim and Michel.
We’ve just released a new track that Michel and I recorded with Greg Burk in Italy, as his little dog Mambo wandered in and out of the room, beneath the pine cones, cactus and lemon trees. This is a version of Anne Brontë’s poem Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day. It premiered recently and you can view it on Youtube now.