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Julie Andrews Celebrates The Sound Of Poetry

Though Julie Andrews' practically perfect singing voice was irreparably damaged in 1997 when she underwent botched throat surgery, the actress's innate musicality is irrepressible. Her new book, Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, features an accompanying CD in which Andrews reads some of the poetry that played an important role in her family.

Andrews put the book together — and selected the poems to include — with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.

"There were joint favorites, personal favorites and, once we started looking, we discovered a hundred new favorites," says Andrews of the selection process.

Among the poems they chose were a few obvious choices: "Sea Fever" and "Cargoes," by John Masefield were included because they were among the first poems that Andrews memorized as a child. Also included are a few of Andrews' and Walton Hamilton's own poems, as well as some by Andrews' father and grandfather.

Andrews says that poetry has always been a family affair. Even though her own parents were divorced, she has fond memories of visiting her father and listening to him recite poetry.

"He actually loved to commit poems to memory," says Andrews. "He felt that on a walk, if he needed to talk to himself or never be lonely or flex his brain, he could recite a poem. He had many committed to memory."

The book includes one of her father's most beloved poems, "The Loveliest of Trees," by A.E. Housman, as well as the lyrics of songwriters like Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim and Rogers and Hammerstein. Andrews says that for her, music and poetry are inextricably linked:

"Whenever I choose a song to sing, it's about the lyrics first. I'm no good at singing a song unless it has a good lyric. I mean, 'My Favorite Things' from The Sound of Music is really a poem," she says.

Though the loss of her singing voice more than 10 years ago was devastating for Andrews, she says that reading poetry aloud is the closest she has come to recapturing that joy.

"It certainly gives me satisfaction, and to bring my own take to the reading of each poem is great fun" says Andrews. "But yes, I do hear the music and there's rhythms and movement and words that are important. It's great fun to read them."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.
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