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May 29, 2009

Note Books - Ana Egge

The Note Books series features musicians discussing their literary side. Past contributors have included John Darnielle, John Vanderslice, and others.

Ana Egge, once dubbed"the folk Nina Simone" by Lucinda Williams, is simply one of my favorite singer-songwriters, a talented storyteller whose unique phrasing delivers her tales perfectly. Her sixth album, Road to My Love, is her most personal and intimate work yet.

Rolling Stone wrote of the album, "Egge's rootsy pedal–steel pop recalls singers like Shawn Colvin, but her sharply observed tales of the overlooked and underpaid feel utterly of the moment."

In her own words, here is the Note Books entry from Ana Egge:

Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai
Edited and translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell

I was in the library searching for a book on Mayan hieroglyphs when I came across a new translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Stephen Mitchell. I recognized his name from reading his translation of the New Testament years ago so I thought I’d give it a try. In his hands and through his care, these ancient teachings were made available and very inspiring to me. It was so enjoyable, that I returned to the library in search of his translation of the Tao Te Ching and anything else with his name on it. That’s how I came across the poetry of Yehuda Amichai.

As a young man Amichai fought in World War ll as a member of the British Army Jewish Brigade and in the Israeli War of Independence. He also fought in several of Israel’s other wars. After all the fighting, he became an advocate of peace and reconciliation in the region, working with Arab writers. He traces his beginnings as a writer to when he was stationed with the British Army in Egypt.

“Autobiography, 1952”

My father built over me a worry big as a shipyard
and I left it once, before I was finished
and he remained there with his big, empty worry
and my mother was like a tree on the shore
between her arms that stretched out toward me

And in ’31 my hands were joyous and small
and in ’41 they learned to use a gun
and when I first fell in love
my thoughts were like a bunch of colored balloons
and the girl’s white hand held them all
by a thin string- then let them fly away

And in ’51 the motion of my life
was like the motion of many slaves chained to a ship
and my father’s face like the headlight on the front of a tram
growing smaller and smaller in the distance
and my mother closed all the many clouds inside her brown closet
and as I walked up my street
the twentieth century was the blood in my veins

blood that wanted to get our in many wars
and through many openings
that’s why it knocks against my head from the inside
and reached my heart in angry waves


but now, in the spring of ’52, I see
that more birds have returned than left last winter
and I walk back down the hill to my house
and in my room the woman, whose body is heavy
and filled with time
-Yehuda Amichai

There’s a dimension of darkness to his poetry and a personal rhythm to the telling that feels like wings of a bird alternately coasting and beating. It’s momentous and pure and full of energy. It’s clear and exposed in a way that I yearn to express myself.

Amichai is the winner of many awards for poetry, and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize on more than one occasion. He is known as Israel’s greatest modern poet.

Ana Egge links and mp3 downloads:

Ana Egge's website
Ana Egge's MySpace page
Ana Egge's Wikipedia entry

Ana Egge: "Straight To My Head" [mp3] from Out Past the Lights
stream Ana Egge's music

Ana Egge posts at Largehearted Boy

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Note Books submissions (musicians discuss literature)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Soundtracked (directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
52 Books, 52 Weeks

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