Songs as Poetry
As her songs attest, she seems to have a natural gift for rhyming words in a way that is so unexpected, it helps to drive home the purpose of her lyrics.
Songs are a poetic form almost as limited as that of a sonnet or haiku. Getting words to fit within the confines of rhythm, finding their inherent melody and drawing upong it: these are all things DiFranco has come to master. All the while peppering her musical recordings with more free verse spoken word poetry.
Ani DiFranco is a Very Good Poet
Indeed, the poems included in Verses that DiFranco hasn't recorded on her CDs, are pretty exceptional. The mark of a great poem is that you can get it if you read it once, but you feel compelled to go back and read it again and again, each time gaining more insight and depth. DiFranco's poetry does just that.
In "Literal," she writes, "literal people scare me / out there trying to rid the world of its poetry." In her conversation with Sundiata at the back of the book, she says of this poem, "It's funny to me that society uses language to divert or attention away from being present, because it is also with language that the poet pierces that cloud and shines light once again on awareness."
Translating it All Into Print
"It is hard for me to grasp how my poems read on paper because when I try to read them my spoken voice echoes loudly in my ears ... 'Transcript' might have been a good name for this book, but it wouldn't express nearly as well the overlap of poem and song, while not ruling out the notion that all of these works could simply be verses in the one long rambling folk song of me."
It is difficult, indeed, to tune out DiFranco's spoken and singing voice when reading the song-poems included here as printed pieces. It takes a certain amount of concentration to forget that you've already heard these poems before in other contexts. But, focus on the literature therein, and new meaning emerges.
The same is true of other excerpts. From "Your Next Bold Move": "i am cancer/ i am HIV / and i'm down at the blue jesus blue cross hospital / just lookin' up from my pillow / feeling blessed."
From "32 Flavors": "everyone harbors a secret hatred / for the prettiest girl in the room." And so on.
The paintings included in the book are really interesting and gorgeous. I'm not qualified to comment on visual art. I'm more of a stick figure artist and, aside from elementary school, have never taken an art class. All I can really say is that I find most of it really excellent. Particularly the black and white duo of pieces featuring the Twin Towers.
There are some nice sketches of women figures and a really intriguing dark painting of a human figure behind a shadowy window. As good as it is, the art serves more as random illustration than a centerpiece of the book. Perhaps she'll release an all-art book in the future.