Lana Del Rey – Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass book review by Chris High

Say what you like about Lana Del Rey, she can’t be pigeonholed. Always willing to take a risk, and with a ‘screw-you world’ attitude those of us with lesser confidence would quite possibly kill to own, her first collection of poems is available now on download.

Later they will be accessible in a more traditional hardcover print format – in September, that is – then on CD even later in October. The download, however, speaks volumes for the Born To Die, Ultraviolence and, more recently, Norman F##@@#g Rockwell! songstress.

Introspective songs delight across Del Rey’s music, so it hardly comes as a surprise she should be dipping her toe into the realms of poetry. Being ‘of’ the and ‘in’ the moment is key to the success of writing lyrics as well as verse – be it blank or otherwise. Without the tune or melody, though, getting the all-important points across to a captive, listening audience is a tad more challenging.

So does new poet the formerly known as Ms.Elizabeth Woolridge Grant have a future alongside, say, Ann Sexton, Sylvia Plath or Charlotte Mew? Well, in all fairness. The jury remains hung. No pun intended.

LA Who Am I To Love You gets the ball rolling. If indeed rolling is an appropriate term. “LA, can I come home now?” she asks and so sets the tone of alienation which is never far away throughout the following thirteen pieces. This is a tough listen at times, particularly first time around. A lot of navel gazing is to be had, some crudely made, ham fisted comments and then there’s the somewhat annoying backing track to contend with.

Personally, I’m looking forward much more now having heard the download to reading a print version of the collection, if only to avoid the distraction of a backing soundtrack with the aural appeal of listening to a jar of wasps high on honey, cola and chocolate eating each other. Noisily.

Then, out of nowhere, comes a stirring of something. A recognition, perhaps, that Lana Del Rey has hit upon a poetic style that is sublimely and uniquely hers. This then becomes a trip into the bizarre musings of global superstar, looking out darkly through a glass half-filled. Then, with this realisation, comes something else: a need – no, a desire – to stop the recording, start again from the beginning and listen more closely to what it is she is actually saying.

Yes there’s a soupcon of hypocrisy and cliché – Happy presupposes that being financially secure doesn’t equal the same weight as being personally free. True, but nevertheless having a decent wedge in the bank must help a bit. This said, however, it is the aspiration of wealth in less than financial terms to which we all aspire – if on a moderately, relative scale – which brings the observations she is making  to the fore and so all the more salient. Wealth is relative.

A decent rant against the political chaos of a poet’s time is always good, too. Paradise Is Very Fragile sees the singer-turned-poet-turned-commentator get all political, banging her drum against the megalomania sweeping The States in the human form of DT. Is it insightful? No. Are its content or views original? Not really. Yet what marks it down as being something worthwhile, is the tone and passion with which each nuanced word is aired. That Lana Del Rey has an opinion is hardly earth shattering news, granted, but to hear it being expressed with such pessimism and downheartedness is alarming to say the least.

Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is, in fairness, not going to be knocking down walls in the Pulitzer judging room any time soon. Yet the honesty and integrity with which Lana Del Rey has constructed this spoken word version of her debut collection is notable for its daring to challenge the norms.  After all, opinions cannot be wrong. Just the way in which they are expressed convinces those listening to nod along… though not completely knowingly, it seems


You can find out more information on the book here:

Write A Comment