“Heard Melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter.” – John Keats
It’s the year 2019 and we, all of us, are a people longing. There are remedies, many of them involving a holistic lifestyle or new hobby, but then there is the ancient remedy for emptiness, for that pang, that whisper of ‘more’ – poetry.
But, Miss Valente, you say, poetry is just too much. Yes, some of the highbrow stuff is a lot to swallow. I say, if you can’t stomach Keats, how about…Kate?
“A book of lyrics is a strange beast.” This is the first sentence of author David Mitchell’s introduction to the most stellar and perhaps controversial book of poetry you will read this year. How to Be Invisible. Published by Faber & Faber Ltd, it’s an alternative anthology of lyrics, written by musical artist and all-around goddess…Kate Bush. Those who have read my previous piece discussing Kate Bush know how I hold this woman in rapture. She is unfortunately unknown or unappreciated by much of America, and yet How to Be Invisible, with its smooth black cover and glimmering letters, has recently made its hallowed place on my record store’s bookshelf.
Kate Bush is a brilliant musician, certainly. She’s the woman experimental listeners honor, and the one the less daring have not yet met. Whether or not you know her, this is clear – Kate is also a bonified poet.
I bought the token without hesitation, then proceeded to read it one fell swoop several days later, lying in my sick bed in a sea of used tissues. Maybe my high temperature lifted me into a transcendent state or maybe Kate Bush divinely inspired. Either way I was transported. Not only did I relive and remember her talent, I discovered a profound poetic outlet. Kate Bush is a brilliant musician, certainly. She’s the woman experimental listeners honor, and the one the less daring have not yet met. Whether or not you know her, this is clear – Kate is also a bonified poet.
You may wonder what this holy grail looks like inside. Following a charming and insightful overview of Kate’s prowess by Mitchell, there lies a table of contents indicating the location of no fewer than 83 songs – no, not songs. Poems. The difference being that this particular collection of song lyrics is formatted as evocative stanzas. Looking at these pages, I must admit… The words are in their natural state. They were meant to be read and analyzed as more than scattered pages of sheet music for later recording. I would even go so far as to say that strangers to Kate Bush are at an advantage. They have the privilege of enjoying Kate as a poet – one with an uncanny knack for the art and all its devices.
I could go on as long as the number Pi, talking about rhythm, assonance, consonance and so on, but I’d like instead to review the images and the sheer beauty within this book. For current Kate Bush fans, seeing the lyrics in print brings home how brilliant Kate really is. She makes literary references to everything from Wuthering Heights (infamously) to The Odyssey, then turns around and talks about transcendence and the threat of nuclear warfare. She engages characters from history, rhapsodizing Joan of Arc and playing with the idea of a coin toss deciding a dance with Hitler. If you know Kate you know how she dramatizes music, but you certainly do not realize the all-encompassing tone and out-of-the box images she tailors to match. Not without this book.
The words are in their natural state. They were meant to be read and analyzed as more than scattered pages of sheet music…
In an effort to avoid dreary literary jargon, I’d like to applaud the unexpected delights that are Kate’s symbols. Take, for example, “How to Be Invisible,” with its “Eye of Braille/Hem of Anorak/Stem of Wallflower/Hair of Doormat.” Unorthodox, contradictory, and yet totally applicable to the socially invisible. Reading this piece, I physically felt the lines, “Take a pinch of keyhole/And fold yourself up/You cut along the dotted line/You think inside out.” I believe I have folded into myself before and, with self-loathing, “cut along the dotted line.” Haven’t we all?
Some of the images painted by Kate are inexplicably beautiful. “The Coral Room,” foolishly unnoticed by myself prior to reading this book, is saltwater taffy for the mind, something for it to chew on and let linger while remembering the tangy nostalgia of the sea. Its city draped in net, the “spider of time” that is “climbing over the ruins”, and, fascinatingly, the “little brown jug” that held mother’s milk… It all threatens to escape your notice when played, but when read, the words invite you to unwrap them. Even those who are emphatically uninclined to poetry will and must read this piece with emotion, recall memories of their own mothers and answer Kate’s question, “Put your hand over the side of the boat/What do you feel?”
What do you feel? I asked myself this question, and so will you while reading this book. What do you feel for an old dog with crippled legs who, when he dreams, runs? What about the “little light, shining,” that “will guide them” – to you, to me? You may not be able to explain your emotions, but they will at least, or should I say at last, be engaged. Every person with a broken heart will weep to read “And So Is Love,” anyone who has lost a loved one to a seemingly futile war will understand the mourning words of “Army Dreamers.” These songs lie in wait for everyone to read, to take up and step into a “sensual world” of brilliant, yet effortless, poetry.
She makes literary references to everything from Wuthering Heights (infamously) to The Odyssey, then turns around and talks about transcendence and the threat of nuclear warfare.
Intrigued but not entirely convinced, you wonder if this book is all I make it out to be, if it’s worth the time it will take away from the work you take home, from the mind-numbing everyday tasks you complete with no relish, from the anesthetic Netflix binge you use to fill the empty space and block the pain of thought or memory. Is it worth your effort?
In a word, yes. To everyone longing to bravely engage their emotions, to find hidden fruits for the mind and the soul, I say you will find no garden more fruitful. Kate Bush will split your heart open – “Like a pomegranate/Insides out.” She will help you ponder the plight of a falling snowflake, the potential romances of reincarnation, how memories look underwater, and how small the earth looks from eternity. Allow Kate to be your guide through this enlightening wilderness, leading you “Under The Ivy”…
Go into the garden Go under the ivy Go under the leaves with me Go right to the rose Go right to the white rose I’ll be waiting for you It wouldn’t take me long To tell you how to find it