Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poetry
Dreams that Cannot Die

About Longfellow Reads Longfellow
An Interview With Layne Longfellow

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History and Coincidence
Music and Poetry
About the Recordings
Adaptation and Reaction
Longfellow and the Listener
A Dream That Would Not Die


Q: Why are people listening to a recording of 19th century poetry?

A: As an antidote to twenty-first-century hyperstimulation. The CD is calming, reflective, thought-provoking. A 10-year-old boy told me he uses it as a bedtime story. A historical society in Massachusetts wrote that the recordings reawakened their old love of Longfellow. An architect said she gathered with friends and listened around a fire, leading to warm, deep conversation. I use it in my car, as a relief from noise, news, and traffic. More than one person has told me that they listen to the CD in the early morning, upon arising, to set their emotional thermostat for the day.

In the Wadsworth-Longfellow kitchen, Portland, Maine

Q: That's a pretty broad audience.

A: I hope we've only begun—this recording was originally intended for libraries and schools, to introduce Longfellow to a new generation of students and readers. It's for the expansion of wisdom and the opening of the heart; for reintroducing a truly great, good, generous mind from a gentler time.


Q: Why did you choose these particular eighteen poems?

A: They reveal both the internationally beloved "Poet of the People" and the internationally respected scholar. This is what I so value about Longfellow's poetry—he speaks to your heart from his heart, using his exceptional mind as interpreter. This collection shows the breadth of his sensibility, his cultural courage, his myth-making vision. Poems range from popular works like "Evangeline," "The Children's Hour," and "Hiawatha," to the lesser known, such as the antislavery poems of 1842. "What do you think of the slavery poems?" he wrote to his father. "Some wish I had not written them, but my heart bade me do so and my mind agreed." That is the very measure of a man, and of a people—that the mind should affirm the impulse of the heart and bring it forth.


Q: Why at this particular time? As we speak, America is at war.

A: We think a great deal now about what it means to be American, and so very much depends on our answer. Longfellow articulated the major American myths within which we have lived for generations. He was likely the most internationally popular and domestically influential American poet in history. More than any other poet, he teaches us where we came from. How better to know where we were headed?



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