A Defense of the Poetry of Jewel (Kind of)
Okay. Okay. Okay. Please stop yelling. I can explain.
Yes, I realize there is a link to Jewel's book of "poems" down there. No, I haven't read the book. No, I do not intend to read it. Yes, my reasons for not reading it are snobbish and do not reflect well on me as a person. No, I don't really care.
Now here's the weird part: I find myself admiring her chutzpah (or optimism, or integrity of vision, or obliviousness--choose a descriptor). I mean, she had to know she was going to get creamed by the Guardians of the Realm and still she published the thing.
And the weirder part: I also feel a little sorry for her, or as sorry as I can feel for someone who got a million dollar advance...for a first book...of poetry. The thing is, she would have been shredded by the critics even if she had turned out to be the reincarnation of Emily Dickinson, Mina Loy and Knut Rockne at 78 rpm all stuffed into one telegenic body.
I suspect it was the first time in a long time that she found herself on the crowded side of the velvet rope.
I'm not gloating (really). I think in a lot of ways she got a raw deal. Do I think she's a good poet? No. But nobody snickered when Tupac's noodlings were published as poetry. Nobody rolled their eyes at the thought of a book by Paul McCartney, the author of lyrical gems like, Ooh ooh what do you do? / No one else can dance like you / So what's all the fuss? / There ain't nobody that spies like us.
So what was it about this particular pop star turned poet that provoked such spleen?
I think it has a little something to do with her body of work--namely, she had little to speak of (and what was there was not particularly promising). Even McCartney who can be as insipid and saccharine as anyone, has many inspired lyrics to go with his genius for the musical hook. Dylan, rightly or wrongly, was considered a poet from the start and has worked at a high-level (with some serious dips along the way) for nearly fifty years. Leonard Cohen was a published poet before he recorded his first song, likewise Patti Smith.
I don't think it helps Jewel's credibility with the Gatekeepers that she is young and comely and (the mother of all stereotypes): blonde. Look, it would be waaaayyy out of character for a thoroughbred troll like me to worry much about a putative bias against the winners of the gene pool, but in this case, I think there's something to it, and that's a little sad.
I think I'll get over it.
Below are a few books from Harris County Public Library's collection. Some are poetry by people known primarily as songwriters, others are books of lyrics presented as poetry, and the rest are weird hybrids.
Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs / Leonard Cohen
Lyrics, 1962-2001 / Bob Dylan
The Spoken Word Revolution: Slam, Hip-hop & the Poetry of a New Generation / edited by Mark Eleveld
The Spoken Word Revolution Redux / edited by Mark Eleveld
Reading Lyrics / edited by Robert Gottlieb
A Night without Armor / Jewel
Blackbird Singing, Poems and Lyrics 1965-1989 / Paul McCartney (The Beatles & Wings)
Spoken Word Live, 1990: Live at McCabe's [CD] / Henry Rollins (Black Flag)
The Rose That Grew from Concrete / Tupac Shakur
Early Work, 1970-1979 / Patti Smith
Adult Head / Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
There! I'm over it. As always comments, bones of contention, suggestions for future posts and examples of really bad lyrics by really good songwriters are greatly appreciated.