Photo by The Naked Studio
By Clare Martin
Sallay Garnett, better known as Loah, has announced her new mini-album of poetry from the 1920s set to music with her first single “The Body to the Soul (Eva Gore-Booth).” It’s a fitting release date, considering that today marks National Poetry Day in Ireland.
While Loah provides the rich vocals and pensive piano, the song’s lyrics come from Eva Gore-Booth’s poem “The Body to the Soul.” The Irish/Sierra Leonean artist breathes new life into words written a century ago as she sings: “You shall follow once more a wandering fire, You shall gaze again on the starlit sea, You shall gather roses out of the mire: Alas, but you shall not remember me.”
Gore-Booth was not only Constance Markievicz’s sister, but a “a total LEGEND,” in Loah’s words.
“Suffragette, labour, women’s rights, queer activist who turned folklore and institutions and the page upside down,” she wrote on Facebook in praise of the Irish poet.
Loah was meant to emigrate to the States during the first weekend of lockdown last year, she revealed in that same Facebook post. She was slated to make her first record over there and had the next couple years ahead of her planned out.
All of that went out the window because of coronavirus, and since then Loah has been working on the front lines as a pharmacist. The singer/songwriter delayed her album plans, but thanks to the Arts Council Ireland decided to take on this project, something she envisioned doing maybe a decade from now.
“I often write poems before music, I respond in poetry to books I read, films I watch, then the melodies often come afterwards,” Loah explained. “So to set poems from 100 years ago and take them as my own felt like letting all the elders into my natural, private process. I wanted to know how Langston Hughes or Georgia Douglas Johnson or Yeats condensed the madness of their time into lines on their page. I would come home from being a pharmacist and try and carve [a] sense of the moment bashing my piano gently… So… 7 poems, 6 writers later, Irish, American, Sierra Leonean. I wanted to spread my wings with my voice and live in the worlds they created. I wanted to leave the house on their turns of phrase !”
Listen to “The Body to the Soul (Eva Gore-Booth)” below.