Iris Dement: The Letting Go

[caption id="attachment_155337" align="aligncenter" width="600"] photo by Pieta Brown[/caption] This article appears in the September/October 2015 issue, now available on newsstands. One afternoon back in 2011, Iris DeMent sat down at her living room piano and began flipping through a book of poetry her friend had lent her by the late Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. By the time she finished reading the first poem that she had flipped to, DeMent had already turned it into a song. As DeMent kept reading, music continued to pour out. “The first four or five poems I read, I wrote the melodies as I was reading them for the first time. That’s how weird it was,” she says, calling from her Iowa City home on a recent afternoon in June. When I call, she has just finished listening to her new album, The Trackless Woods, a 16-song collection of poems by Anna Akhmatova that DeMent has arranged and set to music. It’s the first time she’s listened to the record in more than a month, and the ever-humble DeMent is going through what for her has become a familiar routine of doubting her own music. “I was in my critical phase, but everything’s like that.…

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