Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poetry
Dreams that Cannot Die
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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

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Q: To whom were you reading when it was just you and the microphone?

A: I was reading to Longfellow. I loved being alone with the poem and the microphone. It was such a contrast to my years of presenting to audiences of thousands. No adrenaline flow required, I felt, "It's just us, Henry, just you and me." There I stood, recording in the kitchen and the Rainy Day Room of his Portland home, and in the Gold Ring Room—the master bedroom—of his Cambridge home.

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Q: Did you really need music, or did you just like Michael Hoppé's work?

A: For better and for worse, the modern mind multitasks, so my readings actually are heard better with the music behind them. Younger generations know that the cognitive mind focuses better if the non-cognitive mind is distracted. Look at how they do their homework.

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Q: But music also amplifies the emotional content. How did you get that so right?

A: It begins with the poetry. Michael and I wanted just to convey what was already there. I'd attempt to capture the tone of the poem, and Michael fit his music to my reading. He did that so well that it's difficult now for me to separate the poem from its background. The poetry floats on Michael's music, which reflects it back without a ripple.

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Q: There is a revival of interest in Longfellow—a new novel, a new biography, a new edition of his translations, and your recordings. Is this another coincidence?

A: This is no coincidence. There's a felt need now for Longfellow's gentility and hopefulness in the face of uncertainty and loss. His poems, laden with meaning and feeling, bring as much to us now as when they were written.

 

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