June 1998
s m u g
ear candy
by Leslie Harpold

Six little words made me fall off my chair laughing the other day. "Jewel wrote a book of poetry."

In the fine tradition of celebrity poets like Rollins, Jimmy Stewart and Suzanne Sommers Jewel has published a volume of poetry that's more hyped than Godzilla. Big satellite teleconference at all the Virgin Megastores where she would read and lots and lots of press in the most unusual places. I missed the big reading, I mean, I would have had to walk five blocks to get there, but then a golden opportunity presented itself and even crusty cynical me couldn't say no. A telephone interview.

In the beginning it looked like I was going to be fine. She came through with exactly what you'd expect. There were 6 of us on the call sharing the hour, like the big interviews are done, and I bided my time listening to her throw quotable gems like this one out:

"For me it was, poetry for me is very, it's the most honest expression I can find, it's the most immediate expression. Sometimes with music the lyric can become diluted or less significance next to the melody or the band or the ambiance of a room or having a lot of people there. Whereas poetry it's just the word and the 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 sort of 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. I think it's important to be that way in front of people in general. So, that's why I titled it, A Night Without Armor, because night is when I write."

Soon it would be my turn to ask her a few questions. I would be cutting, I would be a little antagonistic. I was surprised they'd let me on at all, I figured no one checked to see if I'd written anything about her before. I had and I was far from kind.

I had read her poetry. It wasn't that bad. I'd seen more poetry worse than hers than I had seen better so it was above the mid line, but certainly not worthy of the hype circus surrounding this "important" title. And then something very scary happened.

I got a little crush on her.


Not the romantic kind, but the sweet, endearing kind. She melted my heart with a simple answer to a straightforward question. All it took was one sentence, too. She acquiesced to my sweetest media fantasy and knocked all the powder out of my bullets. When asked if she thought her book was published not because her poetry was good, but because she was a celebrity, she said, without hesitation: "Yes. If my album wouldn't have been as successful as it was, there would been very little interest in my poetry book anyway."

Now, while this being endearing is a reflection on the slack cut for our pop heroes with respect to thier perception of reality, I confess I appreciated this comment tremendously.

So I decided not to ask the questions I had ready about living in her van, and my smart ass orthodontia related question and be a little nicer. Still, the journalist in me had to know: if she hated the media so much (as she has stated over and over in interviews) why does she keep thrusting herself into the limelight, especially with her poetry, which she claimed was "intensely personal"

"I don't mind it at the same time. I just always try and look for sincerity. I've just never felt comfortable, even when I watch. It's odd, I mean growing up I'd read or look at Vogue Magazine and become, I would have an anxiety attack, because the people seemed impossibly cool or slick. So, now for me to be in those magazines, I do find kind of odd. But I believe that, I don't mind using the media to achieve my ends either. I don't think that most of the people I talk to are bad at all. I'm not sure where it all begins. I don't, I certainly don't hold anything against media. I just try and, within the media, be as honest of who I am and not sell myself out and not try and over glamorize or over heighten myself, that I don't recognize myself. I find it to be more my responsibility than anything."

Well, that ended my crush pretty much, but I give her credit for learning that media is a tool. This is a far cry from complaining that people are writing about her and buying her record, but I give her credit for growing up a little. I'm a little scared that her next book will be a "collection of short stories and essays" and her ability to "raise awareness and bring poetry back into vogue" with her book is somewhat dubious.

In all fairness, Jewel is charming, bright and well spoken. I went in with a chip on my shoulder and she almost knocked it off. Her poetry is better than average, but I'm not a poetry reviewer. While it disturbs me that the term "culture" has expanded to include anything our pop stars excrete, I can't fault her for working her fifteen minutes. I'd probably do the same thing.

And P.S. Jewel, I'm really sorry about all those things I said last August.



in the junk drawer:

and such
and such

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