Performed by Anita Best (narration and song) with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn.
Born of a cultural tradition rooted in story and song, Mary Dalton’s Merrybegot celebrates the poetic cadence and phrasing of the Newfoundland vernacular through a series of short dramatic monologues. These poems reel like an outlandish jig or spark and smoke like dry boughs flung upon a fire. They are impassioned, sullen, outspoken or conspiratorial; each voice is arresting in its idiosyncratic delivery, each story is an element in the creation of a vivid and distinctive portrait of a people and a culture.
Merrybegot was the winner of the 2005 E.J. Pratt Award for Poetry, and was shortlisted for both the Pat Lowther Award for Poetry and the Winterset Award.
“These are fast poems. They slip by quickly, yet once gone, still hold hard to the ear and tongue. They’re a mix of curse and blessing, the poems feathered as clean as newborn swallows as they dip and weave in the winsome cadences and idioms of Newfoundland. They are like something overheard in the street or at a table in a bar just after it opens, short as a joke and deep as a charm. [These poems] lift us from the obviously crafted, intellectual poem to an art that echoes the best of William Butler Yeats’s late poems, where he gave up artifice for the simplicity of joy and beauty.
—The Globe and Mail
“A real find. . . . Dalton is sharp, insistent and dramatic.
—The Irish Times
“The most original poet whom almost no U.S. readers will know—comes from perhaps the least urban locale: the place is Lake View, Newfoundland, the poet Mary Dalton, whose spiky, dialect-strewn verse animates passionate fishermen, overworked wives, nearly pre-industrial hardships, and striking figures of speech.
—The Yale Review
“A marriage of words and music, this collection of poems by Newfoundland author Mary Dalton is performed by two artists, narrator Anita Best and horn player Patrick Boyle. The poems are a fresh experience, a tour of a country told in its language. The lines ring with description—of fish and berry pails; social commentary, jokes, and insults—which is highlighted and punctuated by music. Anita Best has a smooth, deep voice that creates the necessary immediacy for engaging the listener in experiencing each poem. Patrick Boyle is gifted in expressing ideas through trumpet and flugelhorn, sometimes tremulous, sometimes mocking.”
“There’s a bluntness, a beauty and a bawdiness to their stories that reach out to the readers. One wants to invite Dalton’s characters over for tea and listen to them all night long.”
—The Sunday Independent
“Most listeners will simply hear poems being read aloud. But Newfoundlanders, especially people raised in the outports, are more likely to hear some memory of actual everyday speech. To the local ear, these verses will function like Proust’s madeleine, recalling events, specific individuals, snatches of conversation, indeed a whole bygone way of life. . . . Whether Newfoundlander or no, you can choose to listen to the poems one at a time and appreciate the virtues of each. Or, whether Newfoundlander or no, you can set the CD on continuous play, and simply eavesdrop as you putter about. Soon you will find that an entire Newfoundland outport has entered your kitchen—in the traditional fashion, without bothering to knock—and sat itself down for a cup of tea and a long lingering chew of the rag.
—Books in Canada