Jewel, the poet: 'The most honest expression I can find'
Web posted on: Monday, June 01, 1998 4:52:50 PM EDT
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Jewel might be one of the most popular folk-pop singers in music today, but the 23-year-old finds it strange that she first stepped into the spotlight through the medium of music.
Sure, her album "Pieces of You" has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and, sure, she has become one of the most recognized faces on MTV and VH-1. But Jewel says she was a poet first.
"I've always had a love for poetry and when I got signed to a record label I thought, 'How odd that I'm doing a record before a book of poetry,'" Jewel said.
But now Jewel can add best-selling poet to her resume with the release of "A Night Without Armor." The book, a collection of poems taken from her diaries and journals, is now listed at No. 4 on the Wall Street Journal's nonfiction list.
Jewel is also currently filming the lead role for a new Ang Lee movie set during the Civil War, and she's preparing material for her long-awaited follow-up to "Pieces," due to be released in November.
Being this busy is a good thing.
"I get bored very easily," Jewel said. "I have a voracious appetite and I do not feel alive if I'm repeating something I'm good at. So I'm always looking for new challenges."
"A Night Without Armor" (Jewel says the title stems from the fact that she writes at night) is an attempt by Jewel to reveal a side of herself that her fans might not be acquainted with.
"I was interested in putting this book out so that people would know me for my own word, and not for what people write about me through an interview," Jewel says. "I would have a more direct link with the fan."
While penning Top 10 singles has earned her overwhelming media coverage, Jewel says she finds it possible to hide behind the song lyric. Poetry is another matter.
"I'm very naked in this book, emotionally," she said. "Poetry for me is the most honest expression I can find. It's the most immediate expression. 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."
The song and the poem
The poems in "Night" explore the human condition, love, jealousy, and Jewel's upbringing in Alaska. She says she was influenced by Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski and "the rhythm" of Shakespeare.
Speaking of rhythm, what's the difference between writing songs and poems?
"It's awfully hard to fit my poems into song," Jewel says. "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 and there's always a beat."
Poetry is different from music in another way, too. Unlike songs, Jewel says poems aren't exploited in the media.
"With music, there's a lot of glamour that can be put around it, a lot of hype," she said. "But poetry, it's kind of hard to do that. You can't make poetry videos."
You can give poetry readings -- something that, on the surface, might seem similar to singing a song in front of thousands. But the normally cool Jewel, who performed several readings in a recent promotional tour for "Night," admits being nervous when reading her poetry aloud.
"Poetry is so much more intimate," she said.
'I'll get torn apart'
While Jewel is thankful that it was easier for her to get her work published than the average unknown poet, she believes her celebrity comes with a price.
"If my poetry isn't good, I'll get torn apart all the more," she said. "I almost published the book anonymously or under an alias, just because I was going to be under a lot more scrutiny. My writing has to be that much better."
But if critics pan her poetry, that won't stop Jewel from doing what she loves.
"Poetry isn't an option for me. I need it. If I don't write every day, I don't feel complete."Correspondent Michael Okwu contributed to this report.
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