Archive for Thursday, June 4, 1998


June 4, 1998


Jewel almost published the book under an alias so her fame would not influence its success.

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Pop-star poetry is a tricky craft, and Jewel knows it.

At one end of the spectrum, you've got Bob Dylan, whose songs can be stripped of their sounds and remain lyrical masterpieces. As rich assemblages of word and rhythm, they're artful enough to land in textbooks.

At the other end, you've got someone like the late Jim Morrison, whose rickety stream-of-consciousness belches have been resurrected, dissected and sold in lavishly bound compilations -- free verse that should have stayed that way.

Jewel is a many-tentacled performer: Her introspective pop-folk debut, ``Pieces of You,'' has sold 6 million copies since its 1995 release and was Detroit's second-best-selling album last year. She'll head to the studio in late summer to record its follow-up, which should hit stores before Christmas.

She has starred as Dorothy in a much-lauded production of ``The Wizard of Oz'' at New York's Lincoln Center, and she's got the lead role in a movie with director Ang Lee (``The Ice Storm''), a Civil War-era saga due out in March 1999 that is being shot in Kansas and Missouri.

But for now at least, Jewel is bathing in her first love: poetry. The new ``A Night Without Armor'' (HarperCollins, $15) is a 138-page collection of inward-looking material written in the last eight years.

The publisher is also issuing a CD with Jewel reading her work, which offers glimpses of life on the road and includes underlying spiritual themes.

``I never thought anybody would hear them,'' Jewel, 23, says of her poems.Jewel, who cites Pablo Neruda and Charles Bukowski as influences, talked this week by phone about:

  • Defining her own work: ``The poetry is very simple. I never wrote my poetry thinking people would hear it. I wrote it just out of my own need to understand what was going on in my life, and out of my own fascination with imagination, fairy tales and that kind of thing.''
  • Where she fits among contemporary poets: ``I don't know. I don't even know how I fit into contemporary music. ... It was hard putting out this book because I knew at the same time I can use my celebrity to get published, that if my poetry isn't good, I'll get torn apart all the more. I almost published the book anonymously or under an alias.''
  • The significance of the book's title, ``A Night Without Armor'': ``Poetry for me is the most honest expression I can find -- it's the most immediate expression. Sometimes with music, the lyric can become diluted or less significant next to the melody or the band or the ambience of a room. Whereas poetry, it's just the word and silence.

``I also need my poetry in a different way than I need music. Without writing every night, I don't do well. I need to write every night and every day. It's just how I process the world. I've always been the most frank, the most raw in my poetry writing. So it's very revealing in a much different way than my songs are.''

  • Her catalyst for releasing the material: ``When I got signed to a record label, I thought, `How odd that I'm doing a record before a book of poetry,' because poetry had always been first. I've been doing it longer, and I thought I was better at writing poetry than I was at writing songs. As time evolved and I realized I was at the point where I could release a book of poetry, I was of course interested.''
  • Her song lyrics versus her poetry: ``Because I came from a writing background and a singing background, when I picked up a guitar, it was just more natural for me to focus on the lyric. ...

``I have a hard time fitting the poetic stanza into the timed meter of the music stanza, because you always have to end with a rhyme word and there's always a beat -- four beats or three beats. So it's awfully hard to fit my poems into songs.''

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