LDR’s debut Poetry book, ‘Violent Bent Backwards Over the Grass’ is a Messy Return to the Authentic

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April McBride

‘Violent Bent Backwards Over The Grass’ pictured next a Barbie radio and pink flowers. Lana mention’s her art is crafted for a “frail, delicate feminine person”

April McBride, Staff Writer

Since she first stepped on the indie scene in 2007 Lana del Ray has mentioned her real dream was to be a renowned poet. In one of her most famous works 2012’s ‘Ride’ LDR writes “I had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet but upon a series of unfortunate events saw those dreams dashed and divided like a million stars in the night sky”. 8 years later this book is her first stab at publishing poetry outside of music. The book is a naked look at who Lana, or Elizabeth (as she calls herself by both names based on narrative) as she lives on South Marina, Ca and dives into her own psychic as a writer. The book functions as a diary, scattered with grainy iphone images of the pacific coastline, vintage photographs taped on, mismatched formatting,different page colors and several edits written in pen over pages. The attempt to make both a deep intellectual look at life, but also the more experimental style didn’t always work. This book leaves me with many things to ponder as a long-time fan, and as a writer myself. I just wish that she had been more pointed. 

This book is a direct response to her confusing public image, the questions about her true identity, true personality have haunted her since her unreleased first album “Lana Del Ray A.K.A Lizzy Grant” came out in 2009. Lana clearly states in ‘Salamander’, ” I don’t want to sell my stories anymore, stop pushing me, I want to leave them”. Lana makes a statement that she is no longer interested in being shaped into one person or another, not lured by smashing commercial success as before. Many of these also reference the media hate storm that followed her through 2014 after the release of  2nd studio album “Ultraviolence” about her anti-feminism, and the idolization of abuse in her music. In ‘LA who am I to Love You’ she states her distaste for media attention and plainly “F*** the New York Post”.

Beyond the callbacks to her career Lana seems to be diving into her newfound identity as a poet and living her life all up and down greater LA. Taking piloting lessons and boating tours while driving her truck on the coastline highway, all while exploring the existentialism of her own life, ex-lovers and old lives. This book is her ode to LA in its entirety, the city she has called home for the past 8 years. One of the most profound works in the book ‘LA who am I to Love You’ tells us the story about a city who never sleeps, but is never quite awake like New York or London. A city who does not know what it is, a city that is still figuring itself out, “a city still deciding how good it should be”. Lana calls LA her own mother, and she is the daughter of a city that never really knows what it is. Lana is not quite one girl or another, she regularly quotes Walt Whitman’s “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am very large and contain multitudes”. 

This book is a plain statement that Lana is a poet whether or not you agree, there isn’t a try for prestigious awards, an attempt to say something so big. It is simply the art of a beautiful poet, her work does not have to be pleasing by any social markers. Lana has set herself and her image free, “I am a real poet (…) My thoughts are not for sale; they are about nothing and they are beautiful and for free”. The style is reminiscent of her most early work, homemade music videos made in a trailer covered in vintage images from a thrift store. Her old lyrics were posted on a self owned public blog that barely functioned. Writing requires no resources, and even with everything at her disposal she returns to just a typewriter.  A work that wasn’t swayed by  a million misguided fans or a set public personality. At 34 and over 16 year into her career Lana is finally a poet, just a poet.