Poetry Friday: Lyrics and Poetry-related Prose from Neko Case

h1 February 1st, 2008 by eisha

Neko CaseI had something of a religious experience last weekend: I saw Neko Case perform live at the State Theatre in Ithaca.

“Country Noir” is one phrase I’ve heard used to identify her style, and it’s probably the best description I’ve heard. I’ve been a big fan for a couple of years now, thanks to Jules, and seeing her live just crystallized it. If you ever have the chance, GO.

I’ve always thought her lyrics have a strong tendency towards poetry. So I was looking online for a link to something of hers I could share with you all for Poetry Friday, and found something kind of unusual: an article she wrote for Poetry Magazine, entitled “My Flaming Hamster Wheel of Panic About Publicly Discussing Poetry in This Respected Forum.” Besides having perhaps the best title of a poetry essay EVER, the article is great because it addresses a misconception that I think a lot of people have: that poetry is for “other people… smarter people.” Even Neko, a bonafide poet in her own right, feels inadequate in the face of Poetry-with-a-capital-P:

I think it’s because I don’t want to let poetry down. Poetry is such a delicate, pretty lady with a candy exoskeleton on the outside of her crepe-paper dress. I am an awkward, heavy-handed mule of a high school dropout. I guess I just need permission to be in the same room with poetry.

But she goes on to recognize that these feelings are wrong, that “we all have the right to poetry!” And she notes that she doesn’t feel the same reservations about poetry in the context of music.

So, in the hopes that it will lead you to some of Neko’s poetry-as-music, here are some lyrics from one of my favorite songs, “Deep Red Bells.”

He led you to this hiding place
His lightening threats spun silver tongues
The red bells beckon you to ride
A handprint on the driver’s side
It looks a lot like engine oil and tastes like being poor and small
And Popsicles in the summer

The rest of the lyrics are here. And trust me – it’s even better with music.

11 comments to “Poetry Friday: Lyrics and Poetry-related Prose from Neko Case”

  1. Wow. Oh. Wow. Shattering. Eisha, how did you stand listening to that live?

  2. It was goosebump-inducing, for sure. In looking up the lyrics I found out the song is inspired by the Green River killings in the Seattle area in the early ’80s. Spooky.

  3. Eisha – please take this with all due love and respect. You got to see Neko Case live? You suck.

    hugs and kisses,

  4. I’m also insanely jealous that Eisha saw Neko Case live.

    And I think that when Neko Case combines her poetic songwriting skills with her storytelling skills, like in “Margaret Vs. Pauline,” it’s even better. Man, that song is so tightly written. “Ancient strings set feet a light to speed to her such mild grace /
    No monument of tacky gold /
    They smoothed her hair with cinnamon waves.”

    Ah. Perfect.

    Did she sing that live, Eisha?

    And, hey, she has a children’s lit connection with the “Sparrow” video, what with Julie Morstad’s animation and Morstad doing the cover art for Fox Confessor (which you’ve pointed out here at 7-Imp before Eisha). Also killer lyrics.

    I LOVE that poetry quote of hers. Isn’t it time she brought us a new CD? It’s been a few years since Fox Confessor. When my daughter was two, she would walk around singing the lyrics to some of those songs on that CD, ’cause I wore it the hell out. Eisha, did she say anything about a new CD? Did she? O! Did she?

    (Eisha, have you ever seen Morstad’s web site? Wow).

  5. Okay, excuse me for one more comment, esp. for adding one more big, loud image, but I can’t help it. I just read the essay, and it’s great. Thanks, Eisha. I love that she uses “Anna Karenina” as a verb. And that she closes with “Rocky Top.”

    Anyway, the whole thing makes me think of this, one of my favorite things ever. Someone gave me this once, and I just found an image online. Actually, I think I’ve mentioned this at the blog before, but let’s see if this image works.

    (I promise after this I’ll go away and stop yammering with big ‘ol images).

  6. OK, stop you guys. A soul can only take so much!!! Between Neko’s poetry quote and lyrics and now the damn Cheap Art manifesto I’m kinda being brung to my knees over here. If I had to go to a concert right now, you’d have to carry me. I’d go, but you’d have to carry me.

  7. I love that manifesto, Jules. And it’s a lyrics-as-poems kind of day, I guess – I’ve got Sting.

  8. Adrienne, I’ll take that in the spirit in which it was offered. I’m sure when you were Entertainment Editor for the Metro Pulse you got to see all kinds of awesomeness for free, so you suck even more. Love you!

    Jules – she did sing Pauline, and Deep Red Bells, and Maybe Sparrow, and John Saw That Number. She even did some covers, like Don’t Forget Me by Harry Nilsson, and Listen To Her Heart by Tom Petty. And YES, she played about three songs that she said were brand new, so I’m thinking a new album must be in the works, except they keep touring.

    Liz, I’d carry you to see Neko if I could.

    Ah, Sting. Kelly, I used to love Sting. He could write a hell of a song, once upon a time.

  9. How have I not heard of Neko Case? Now I’ve got to get her cd.

    I’ve got lyrics in my Poetry Friday post too.

  10. Well, she did release a live album last year, but I’m also impatiently awaiting a new album. Needless to say, I’m another very jealous person here.

  11. It’s a great music, and also it is nostalgic but you can buy cd somewhere, thank you for lyrics.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.