My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.
I just finished re-reading this trilogy for the first time in like five years, for the first time post-Trump presidency, for the first time since Covid, for the first time in my thirties. And some of the themes hit harder now.
Like the struggle to choose between fighting to change the status quo or fleeing/hiding for your own safety and sanity.
Like how there’s so much gray area in the good vs. evil debate, when each side truly believes they’re fighting for something noble.
Like how it’s easy to stop seeing individuals and merely see a “side” you’re against.
Like how people on both sides of a war (and the tactics and justifications they use) are far more similar than they think.
This series holds up so, so well, especially compared to a lot of other dystopian YA books that came out around the same time. It might even pack more punch in 2021 than it did when it came out in 2008—which is kind of scary. Dystopia, like satire, is getting more and more indistinguishable from reality.
The gist: Poems about love, LA, feeling lost, and finding yourself.
The background: Not much except that I should probably give a heads up that I’m biased as a fan of Lana Del Rey’s music, so when I heard she was putting out a poetry collection last year I figured I’d like it.
The tea: The poems in this book read to me like the more elevated version of Tumblr poetry—you know, those overly simplistic poems that are more like statements with lots of line breaks that suddenly transform them into something “deep”—but here’s how I actually mean that as a compliment:
I like the accessibility of these kinds of poems. I don’t think a poem needs to be an inscrutable puzzle or have layers and layers of meaning to be effective.
While Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is more mature and insightful than Tumblr poetry, the poems have the same kind of approachability and give you something to latch onto when reading. They’re about relatable situations, like getting over someone, moving to a new city, the current state of the world.
Plus, I like that lines like, “Sugar sugar lips and teeth / fingertips touch emojis” speak to present-day love and intimacy; sure, a letter or phone call is easier to romanticize than pressing a button to send a digital heart to your lover—that’s why I appreciate artists who embrace this aspect of modern living and can make it sound just as romantic.
Accompanying the typewriter-page poems are lo-fi, brightly filtered photos of LA taken by Del Rey. The whole package might come off as artsy hipster overkill if it weren’t so predictably on-brand for Lana Del Rey, and why fix what works? It’s a pretty aesthetic.
The wrap-up: Reading through these reflective and dreamily worded poems while glancing at the hazy LA visuals isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon or two. Especially if you like contemporary poetry or Lana’s music.
The rating: ⭐⭐⭐/5
May my eyes always stay level to the horizon, may they never gaze as high as heaven to ask why
May I never go where angels fear to tread, so as to have to ask for answers in the sky
The whys in this lifetime I’ve found are inconsequential compared to the magic of nowness– the solution to most questions