Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey

I went to a party

I came in hot

made decisions beforehand

my mind made up

things that would make me happy

to do them or not

each option weighed quietly

a plan for each thought

But then i walked through thee door

past the open concept

and saw Violet

bent backwards over the grass

7 years old with dandelions grasped

tightly in her hands

arched like a bridge in a fallen handstand

grinning wildly like a madman

with the exuberance that only doing nothing can bring

waiting for the fireworks to begin

and in that moment

i decided to do nothing about everything

forever.


Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey is a poem about the concept of happiness. Essentially, the theme of the poem is that happiness is something that comes from being open to serendipity, not from being constricted by excessive planning. Having her mind made up makes the speaker “hot” and intense in a way that implies some sort of stress. She has a “plan for each thought,” which would be overwhelmingly restrictive. In contrast, the image of the child doing a handstand is more free and unrestrained, described as “grinning wildly like a madman” and “arched like a bridge,” a symbol of unity and connection. This makes the speaker want to follow the child’s lead, in a way that, although impractical, would still be a step up from what she was doing before.

Happy by Lana Del Rey

You thought i was rich and i am but not how you think

I live in a tudor house under the freeway in Mar Vista by the beach

when you call i take my phone outside to the picnic table

that i bought from the Rose Bowl

and i listen to the rushing cars above

and i think about the last time you visited me

the last time we made love

how the noise got louder and louder during rush hour

and it felt like the ocean was the sky

and that i was flying because you were two feet taller than me

until you took me in your arms

and i could touch the stars

and they all fell down around my head

and i became an angel

and you put me to bed

happy

People think that i’m rich and i am but not how they think

i have a truck with a gold key chain in the ignition

and on the back it says: happy joyous and free

happy

and when i drive

i think about the last time my friends were driving with me

how the radio was so loud that we couldn’t hear the words

so we became the music

happy

They write that i’m rich and i am but not how they think

i have a safe i call the boyfriend box

and in it every saved receipt

every movie theater ticket just to remind me

of all the things i’ve loved and lost and love again

unconditionally

You joke that i’m rich and i am but not how you think

i live in a tudor house under the freeway

off of Rose Avenue 12 blocks from the beach

and when you call i put your sweater on

and put you on speaker

and chat for hours underneath the trees

and think about the last time you were here lying next to me

how the noise from the cars got louder and louder

during rush hour

until it sounded like a river or a stream

and it felt like we were swimming

but it wasn’t just a dream

we were just

happy


Happy is a poem by Lana Del Rey about the titular emotion. Happiness in the poem is simultaneously described as living in the moment, yet in a way that is so intense, the speaker is elevated from the moment into a dreamlike euphoria outside of its dominion. The sound of cars above her transforming into an ocean-sky, her feeling like she’s flying and her friends becoming music are all just some examples of this phenomenon. She also makes the point that she is not rich in the way that people think she is, that her happiness is not merely attributed to material excess, which she emphasizes with repetition and seemingly contradicts when she details a gold key chain. However, the gold key chain can be viewed as a metaphor for freedom, as the keys are in the ignition of her car. Perhaps gold is nothing more than a color for her and she’s purposely subverting the reader’s expectations by selecting it. While there’s a tint of melancholy to the poem as she recounts ways she copes with past relationships, like the boyfriend box, she is resilient and grateful. Furthermore, people’s perceptions of her shift to being less serious throughout the poem, as it goes from the accusatory first “you thought,” to the less direct “people thought,” to the even more distant “they write,” before finally reaching “you joke.” Although outsiders’ perceptions of her change over the course of the poem, she remains blissfully unaffected by their opinions from the start to the end, simply living its theme: happy.

Holler by Unknown

i.

it ain’t appalachia brought down from heaven, 

all these beasts sing: praise ye Yah. alleluia

to all ya’ll find in the blue hills. ain’t it strange

how branches choke the grass below? how

it bares the roots in the forest. the forest floor

is all roots. all them eye-covered beasts murmur

praise ye roots, for they choke the ground itself.

the highways are all tangled, no man can hope

to get to Haven, Georgia on one tank of grass,

but at the intersection of Lee and Martin, a light,

harsh and vibrant, poured out of Lake Lanier,

the highways are all bridges, all rivers pouring

over the lake. all of it’s caught up in crossing

like light through light

                                      like through glass or

water. from high places you recognize the sprawl

of the holler. of the yawp

                                        ya’ll can’t clamp shut,

it will echo in the stradvarian

                                        fiddle plucked like peaches.

blue grass and blue mountains pressed against

a rainwhite sky. green grass and green branches

heave against a rainwhite sky pine straw’d edges

of the canvas, hatched and shaded black, hickory

withes hatching the legs of a white child. creeks

have always been sacred, wet rocks smell holy.

pastor says its the end times. i think its just

anxiety. he either saw a seraph or a woman

nailed to a giant grape leaf last fall. god is

some sort of fern. devil is vine, trees 

are something greater. water and deep roots 

just pour over each other and we can’t make

sense of it. when you’re on your belly,

nothing’s bigger than a yard, nothing’s

deeper than a river, and the road burns.

the hills have everything in them, everything,

all of it.


Holler is a poem by an unknown author, inspired by Southern Gothic literature, about reconciling one’s past. The South, regularly used as a symbol for old ways and tradition, is not to be mistaken for heaven. Mindless people can be like dumb animals, praising roots (often a symbol for ancestry and history one is helpless to), for choking the ground (their grounding). They blindly worship their elders and idealize the past based solely on emotion. However, the path to transition is confused, crowded and claustrophobic in the hustle and bustle of modern life. This makes the speaker want to return to the old world, a place that, although isn’t heaven, is a haven. The first interpretation is that the longing for retreat is a seemingly impossible wish, until harsh light, embodying the guidance of tough love and parental authority, turns the highways into bridges, connecting rural life with urban life and the old with the new. The light comes from high places above the speaker’s level and stretches beyond them with infinitely more power. Light represents guidance, water represents cleansing. While a pastor, someone typically considered an authority figure, asserts that this phenomenon is an indication of the apocalypse on a broad scale global level, the speaker believes it is a symptom of an identity crisis on a personal level, ironically disagreeing with an authority figure on the role of tradition and authority in people’s lives, proving that elders, as well as traditional wisdom, aren’t always right and it’s up to the individual to decide their importance. The speaker hypothesizes that either an angelic being or a woman was witnessed in agony during the season most associated with transformation, with the following line suggesting the characterization that, although they are hard to differentiate, they are opposites (with the woman signifying sin). This is because, subsequently, God and the Devil are also characterized as hard to differentiate as ferns and vines. Interestingly, what they feed on, trees, is considered greater than them, seemingly endorsing the concept of free will being more powerful than fate, original sin, temptation, the advice of the righteous, etc. appearing to contradict the dominion of light previously mentioned. Perhaps this means it’s ultimately up to the individual to control how much they’re influenced and will only be helped or hurt as much as they allow, or, the second interpretation, the theory that the speaker was never truly saved by the light and was left stranded in liminal space to reflect on all the possibilities of being. Regardless, the speaker admits that the cleansing (water) of ancestry and heritage (roots) is hard to understand. In a moment of weakness, nothing is greater than a yard. The yard is an intriguing metaphor, as it perfectly encapsulates both nature, in its greenery, and society, in how it’s manicured and contained. Fate and free will. The past and what’s inherited, as well as the present and individual choice. Furthermore, nothing is more profound than the elusive forms of cleansing in movement and the burn of travel. The hills are bumpy obstacles you go over during the course of a journey, built up by time, like the inescapable burden of ancestry and the past.  These hills are all encompassing.

The Milk Poem by Ryan Murphy

Late, at the bottom of the field, my sister and I

watch the dairy cows turn in for sleep. They cry

in the barn. We hear them low across the grass,

each of them moaning: moon, moon.

My sister turns to me and asks if sky is animal,

exploded: I tell her yes, and also that she is matter,

compacted. Light hardens on her hands like prayer

as she stands beneath the moon. It’s dripping milk.

In Catholic school, they taught us that all of creation

has only one heart. That it beats within us.

That cigarettes may clot God’s will. That science

makes every human organ a milkless flower.

Sister Jamie poured a drop of red food coloring

into a bowl of milk and told us, as the veins branched,

that God moved both within and without us,

but that we infinitely absorbed Him. Sun

to Earth; cycles of dark. My sister and I know

that in the blue night, light is anything that can

be caught but never held. Spilled milk. Our bodies

set each other into bonfires: the moonlight makes us look obscene.

And yet we know this blind field exists only to collect milk

and meat. Each female cow swells with her own liquid

while my sister’s hair rolls away from her like cream.

Our bodies answer to moons, not to milk—

each of us licks the shores of our skin

until we become banks of our own blood.

Here, in the clockless night, the only fluid

is white. God drips red. Moon, moon.

My sister tilts her head to the constellations—

her lips are pink, as the meeting of milk and blood.


The Milk Poem is a Modern poem by Ryan Murphy about the nature of existence. When the cows’ moos sound like melancholic cries to the moon, the speaker’s sister asks if the sky is animal exploded, which is an interesting question because she isn’t asking if its an animal exploded, which would limit the question to be about singularity, rather she asks if all animals are exploded to make the sky. The question is also intriguing because it doesn’t disclose whether it has a cryptic meaning of animals dying or a dreamily hopeful meaning of animal having advanced into its final form. Is it reassuring and comforting the way their blown up essence wraps around the world and surrounds us with omnipresence? Or is it threatening, looming over us, reminding us of our mortality? All of the movements described are synchronized, elegant and graceful as the sister positions herself under the moon that drips milk. The poem goes on to recall the sister and speaker being taught of the collective interconnectedness of the universe, but that their individual vice has the power to contaminate the purity and unity that exists through the variance. Certain acts of free will go against God’s wishes for his creation. His creation its simultaneously perfect yet not unbreakable. Although, while religion can be confining, science can be dehumanizing and strip them of their milk. They are taught that God is inescapable like red food coloring in milk. However, the sister and speaker seem to either rebel against this concept by asserting that they are free and their wild, spilt milk is impossible to catch like light or concede that while they may contain God in them,  they aren’t under a tight, suffocating grip. The moon illuminates the scene as improper. They are aware that life is exploitative and temporary, meant only to harvest milk and meat, so the protagonist declares that his sister and him answer to the moon, not milk. The moon is fate dictating the cycles they are helpless to, that the cows wish to ritualistically summon. Meat is the physical body. Milk is the spiritual lifeforce, that the moon drips with, that the cold sterility of science robs them of and that death will someday harvest and take over. Both are the fruit that is preyed upon and hunted. They contain a duality of being both necessary and a burden due to their desirability. Death is God’s inevitability, the blood that swims through their veins like the red food coloring the nun foreshadowed.  The sister’s lips are mixed with this ominous reminder and the living vitality of milk.

Paperclip by Tyler 

he calls you

paperclip

not because you hold everyone together

when the wind tries so hard

to scatter souls

or because your eyes flash hints of silver

when you talk about your favorite song

or because your lip ring taints your kisses

metallic.

 

paperclip

because he can downsize you in an instant

replacing you with a version of yourself

that doesn’t weigh his pockets down

your body now too small to hold your essence

and a mouth that will only open wide enough

to swallow.

you are easily forgotten

but somehow always end up

attached to his keychain.

 

paperclip

because he can bend you to his will

and you don’t even notice

until everything else

begins falling out of your grasp.

every time he snaps you back into place

the world has only changed

but a fraction of a centimeter

and you’re used to measuring your life in kilometers.

 

paperclip

because he is a staple

leaving puncture wounds in everything he touches

a few drops of blood in every corner of your mind

and when you learn how to extract him from your heart

no goodbye is successful enough to patch

permanent holes you fold yourself in upon

and pretend not to notice.

to this day,

that chapter of your life remains dog-eared

and you wonder

why you still have trouble

picking locks.

 


Paperclip is a Modern poem by a poet listed only as Tyler, that was featured in the now defunct online magazine Rookie. In the poem, the writer uses a paperclip as an extended metaphor to describe the abusive and one sided nature of a toxic relationship. The first stanza establishes that the nickname Paperclip is not a positive term of endearment the abuser uses to show appreciation towards his partner, rather it’s a derogatory and belittling slur. While the victim does many helpful things and displays beauty and strength in ways comparable to a paperclip,  the abuser doesn’t put them into consideration. For, as the second stanza explains, the victim is degraded by and disposable to the abuser and has had their spirit reduced to only being capable of subservience to the abuser. Paperclip is no longer an individual. “Paperclip” is easily manipulated and controlled by the abuser. Even when Paperclip is no longer with the abuser, he has left a mark on them and the chapter of Paperclip’s life feels incomplete and without resolution. Paperclip cannot pick the lock to escape their suffering.

 

 

Shoes by Charles Bukowski

when you’re young

a pair of

female

high-heeled shoes

just sitting

alone

in the closet

can fire your

bones;

when you’re old

it’s just

a pair of shoes

without

anybody

in them

and

just as

well.


Shoes is a Dirty Realist poem by Charles Bukowski about losing romantic enthusiasm with age. When a man is young, just a leftover object a woman has touched can be an exciting reminder of her past presence and imply a future return, but that excitement dulls as time goes on and it makes no difference whether the woman is gone or not. There is something to be said about how, the object does not simply go from a joyous reminder of a woman’s presence to a joyous reminder of the woman’s absence. The speaker is not happy the woman’s gone once he’s older. He is resigned and indifferent, perhaps suggesting hurt. The message of this crucial detail may be that, when age hardens people to be uncaring, they don’t become hardened without a reason, sometimes negative experiences can be the cause and it’s not something they revel in either.  On the contrary, it might also just be trying to assert that energy shifts at different phases of a relationship and that it’s okay. It’s okay for them to have some space. It’s not a tragedy that the woman isn’t present but it’s not a triumph either.

The Philosopher by Emily Bronte

Enough of thought, philosopher!

Too long hast thou been dreaming

Unlightened, in this chamber drear,

While summer’s sun is beaming!

Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain

Concludes thy musings once again?

“Oh, for the time when I shall sleep

Without identity.

And never care how rain may steep,

Or snow may cover me!

No promised heaven, these wild desires

Could all, or half fulfil;

No threatened hell, with quenchless fires,

Subdue this quenchless will!”

“So said I, and still say the same;

Still, to my death, will say—

Three gods, within this little frame,

Are warring night; and day;

Heaven could not hold them all, and yet

They all are held in me;

And must be mine till I forget

My present entity!

Oh, for the time, when in my breast

Their struggles will be o’er!

Oh, for the day, when I shall rest,

And never suffer more!”

“I saw a spirit, standing, man,

Where thou dost stand—an hour ago,

And round his feet three rivers ran,

Of equal depth, and equal flow—

A golden stream—and one like blood;

And one like sapphire seemed to be;

But, where they joined their triple flood

It tumbled in an inky sea

The spirit sent his dazzling gaze

Down through that ocean’s gloomy night;

Then, kindling all, with sudden blaze,

The glad deep sparkled wide and bright—

White as the sun, far, far more fair

Than its divided sources were!”

“And even for that spirit, seer,

I’ve watched and sought my life-time long;

Sought him in heaven, hell, earth, and air,

An endless search, and always wrong.

Had I but seen his glorious eye

ONCE light the clouds that wilder me;

I ne’er had raised this coward cry

To cease to think, and cease to be;

I ne’er had called oblivion blest,

Nor stretching eager hands to death,

Implored to change for senseless rest

This sentient soul, this living breath—

Oh, let me die—that power and will

Their cruel strife may close;

And conquered good, and conquering ill

Be lost in one repose!


The Philosopher is a Victorian Era poem by Emily Bronte proclaiming the value of life experience over shut out contemplation.  She asserts that people’s identities are formed in reaction to life events and that if a person avoids such events out of caution or a controlling desire to understand them from afar, they will miss out and life will pass them by. The longing to methodically dissect and interpret human interactions, rather than simply take them as they are and as they come, is seen as arrogant, prideful and all consuming. Life isn’t always orderly, things don’t always happen for a reason and a person could waste their whole lives trying to sort out the chaos, losing themselves in the tangled web of possible explanations.  To avoid suffering is to avoid life and outside of the dark chamber of self isolation the sun is shining as time waits for no one.

Artistic Intention Vs. Viewer Interpretation

The other day my friend and I were discussing the Indie film Palindromes, where a 13 year old, played by multiple actors of various ages, genders and ethnicities over the course of the film, runs away and attempts to get pregnant.

I suggested that it was a metaphor for people’s search for identity. Attempting to get pregnant at a young age representing the naïve and hurried way that people recklessly seek to create merely for a fleeting sense of self without any deeper thought.  Maybe a diverse cast, as well as giving the main characters palindrome names, was chosen to reflect the universality of this theme.

My friend argued that the screenwriter probably didn’t mean all that when he was making the film. I retorted: “So what? When an artist of any form unleashes their work to the public, it’s no longer their baby ( even if it was, babies grow up and have purposes past their parents’ intentions, likewise art can have a meaning past the artist’s intentions,  it can reveal truths about the world at large whether the artist meant to do so or not) it belongs to the public and its up to the public to decide what it means to them individually!”

Perhaps if the artist isn’t trying to be commercially successful he might have a point, but when somebody buys a product, it becomes theirs and its up to them to decide the most enjoyable way to use it (as long as the use is legal of course). It’s not about you, it’s about your art, not everybody cares about you. You aren’t the product you’re selling. You aren’t as important. Furthermore, if an artist actually wants to be commercially successful they’d understand that their narrow vision of their work alone isn’t going to reach many people.  Relatability and the ability to resonate with the viewer, are some of the key factors of marketability in any form of art or entertainment. If somebody’s hamster just died and they listen to a sad song, that the writer originally wrote about a breakup, in order to help cope with their loss, their relatability is expanding the boundaries the artist originally set.  Relatability goes beyond the artist because different people have different life experiences and see the world in different ways. You have to let go of your ego, be flexible and willing for your art to be subjected to other people’s opinions and be applied to various circumstances if you’re going to give it to other people. In addition to the issue of relatability, if researching a long essay about a painting’s meaning is a prerequisite to looking at it, you’ll find that less people will be interested. Not only will they lose interest due to a short attention span, they’ll lose interest out of self respect. Not everybody wants condescending lectures that make them feel inferior.  Talking down to the viewer can alienate them. Many may ask: “Who’s to say some pretentious artist’s opinions are more important than mine?” If an artist burns so intensely for their message to be heard, they might try to make it more obvious in the work itself, for the more esoteric and abstract the work is, the more it invites the viewer to engage and play with it. Your art should speak for itself and if it doesn’t, others will. The less an artist includes, the more the viewer will to fill in the blanks. A lot of people think one of the big appeals of art is that that, it isn’t like math. In math there is only one objectively right answer. In art, there is not. Anybody who claims there’s only one correct answer to any work of art is only doing so to build themselves up for the sake of faux intellectual points.  A lot of people think another big appeal of art is that anybody can do it, sure not everybody can do it “well”, but unlike science, math or politics, doing it “wrong” won’t cause real harm to anybody. The worst “bad art” can do is be ugly, cliché or boring, etc.  “Bad art” won’t cause physical damage, while bad science can conduct unethical testing and experiments, bad math can collapse bridges and bad politics can bomb nations. Art is an escape from these high stakes. Art reminds us of our inner connectivity, or what little we have, when people are united by a singular work that is opened up to mean different things to different people. To allow art to be for everyone is to allow a voice to be for everybody, not just the academics and intellectuals, to fight this idea is arrogant, regressive and borderline fascist at the least. An artist isn’t anymore sacred or holy than anybody else when they’re doing something anybody could do. Sure their intent can be fascinating to learn about and it isn’t invalid but it shouldn’t be considered the end all be all for discussion from both a capitalist standpoint and a hippy purest standpoint.

 

 

 

 

Art vs. Entertainment

What’s the difference between art and entertainment?   Here are just some thoughts..

Entertainment caters to the viewer. Art challenges the viewer. Entertainment can be obvious with generic, cliched metaphors or even just purely superficial without any metaphors or message, because all it has to do is temporarily gratify the viewer on a carnal level.  However, art must have some memorable unique quality. Whether that quality simply elicits a lasting emotional response such as classical art’s disciplined elegance or provoke thought like modern art with its enigmatic mystery like an intellectual puzzle that captivates the viewer to search for greater connection.  Art is about making adventurous connections that open you up to greater possibility.  Sometimes you don’t realize something resonates with you until you discover it.  Sometimes you don’t realize you need or want something until you have it. Art pushes this phenomenon by taking risks.  Henry Ford, the man often credited with making cars more commercially available to a wider demographic, once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The quote exemplifies the attitude of innovation artists must strive for.  Some have suggested that art either has to share a new message through old fashioned means, or an old fashioned message through new means.  And some have suggested that all good art expresses the unknown with the known, abstract concepts through familiar communicative devices.  Regardless, I think an artist finds the intangible occurrences that people struggle to describe and makes them tangible and describable. An artist fishes in the gray misty waters of the impalpable, captures the great sea creature looming at the bottom and translates its mystical call into a language that we all either understand or that’s made interesting enough for us to want to understand.

But somebody isn’t made smart just because they can memorize facts and somebody isn’t made an artist just because they can color in the lines. Its about applying knowledge, discovering and conquering new ground. Sure, knowing the rules but also knowing them to know how to break them.

 

 

Spinster by Sylvia Plath

Now this particular girl

During a ceremonious April walk

With her latest suitor

Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck

By the birds irregular babel

And the leaves’ litter.

By this tumult afflicted, she

Observed her lover’s gestures unbalance the air,

Her gait stray uneven

Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower.

She judged petals in disarray,

The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then! —

Scrupulously austere in its order

Of white and black

Ice and rock, each sentiment in border,

And heart’s frosty discipline

Exact as a snowflake.

But here — a burgeoning

Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits

Into vulgar motley —

A treason not to be borne. Let idiots

Reel giddy in bedlam spring:

She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set

Such a barricade of barb and check

Against mutinous weather

As no mere insurgent man could hope to break

With curse, fist, threat

Or love, either.


Spinster is a Confessionalist poem by Sylvia Plath about how being obsessed with control prevents love. The poem paints a picture of, what would normally be considered, an idyllic walk through nature, through the distorted viewpoint of a perfectionist. The birds beautiful singing is seen as rambling racket, the leaves are seen as disorganized and the freeness of wild flowers are seen as messy. The message of the poem is that perfectionism ruins the most wonderful parts of life, represented by spring, and leaves them to only the still, plain deadness of winter.