The Bottom Line: A Night Without Armor has stayed in my collection because I recognize the raw emotion and thoughtful reflection, however simplistic, that gave birth to these poems.
There is something strikingly earnest about Jewel Kilchers (simply) pretty face as she stares out at me with her almond shaped eyes and wonderfully pouting lips, from the cover of her first book of published poetry, A Night Without Armor, first released in 1998. Perhaps it is that look and the rare profile pose of the author on the back cover, that seemed to me equally as earnest, that made me pull the book from the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble and start to read. The more I read the more I liked what my eyes, mind, and soul beheld, and so I bought the book.
Now Jewel Kilcher, yes that Jewel was the first to admit that her book of 136 poems would not have been published if her amazing debut multi-platinum album, Pieces of You, had not sold 10 million copies. And granted, Jewel, who has heretofore not released another book of poetry and is not about to take her place upon the stage of great American poets, but A Night Without Armor certainly qualifies as some of the best free-verse poetry I have had the privilege of reading in our modern times. After all Jewel is a song writer and what is a song, but poetry put to music? At least I consider it such.
A Night Without Armor was (and is) mostly dismissed by the critics as amateurism at best, and too simplistic to be considered real poetry. Would those same critics say as much about the Japanese form of poetry know as Haiku? I dare say not. True, most of the poems within the folds of this book are simple, but they are earnest and soulful as well; poetry need not be a jumble of metaphors, rhymes and lofty pronouncements to be meaningful or relevant.
While reading A Night Without Armor I felt as though I was reading Jewels diary, being made privy to her innermost thoughts, and that after all is what poetry is supposed to do, expose up to a side of a person we might never have known, but for their poetry. No one can doubt Jewels sincerity in composing these poems and sharing them with us. The poems in A Night Without Armor mainly consist of three subjects: love & sex, childhood and observations about popular culture. In the Preface of the book Jewel counts Neruda, Dylan Thomas, Bukowski and Rumi, among her chief influences. She writes: Long before I wrote my first song, words formed as poems in my journals; and poetry drives drive my song writing today. My songs were strongly influenced by Pablo Neruda, Bukowski, Octavio Paz; and musically I admire the great poetic lyricists like many of the writers of Tin Pan Alley, and other like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits. Each forged a bridge from poetry to music Poem from A Night Without Armor (And So to Receive You, Page 110 111)
And so to receive you to receive you with the tenderness of flight, an orange blossom caught in my throat. The cat is purring softly in the cobalt blue of the night, such a sweet whisper lodged in my chest. I hold you head with both hands. Barns are burning somewhere out there (in here). My grandmother had pale hands that looked like study viens. She wrote poetry, too, and sang. Though she knew few lovers, I hope her breasts were admired as mine are two silver deities two shining steeples giving testament to the sky.
My breasts are twin moons two pillows for your whiskered cheek a harbor for your teeth and tongue.
Oh, infinite embrace! The night has a chill and I feel I could not get you close enough.
Many would read the forgoing poem and find conceit and un-abiding self awareness sewn into Jewels words, but I see an honest portrait of herself; a love and awareness of self that is sorely lacking to most young women today. Is there anything wrong with elevating love of self through poetic expression? I dont think so and indeed this is one of the book more poignant pieces, because Jewel not only speaks of love of self, but love of another, and yes, sex. But the language is subtle and none threatening, there is passion, but it is respectful and loving, not harsh and obscene.
A Night Without Armor has stayed in my collection all of these years because I recognize the raw emotion and thoughtful reflection, however simplistic, that gave birth to these poems. They are from the soul; they are unscripted snippets of Jewels heart that she has laid bear for us to read, they are and outpouring of emotional baggage, and that I why I relate. My own poetry is much the same, raw, tender, jagged, passionate, and unschooled. By then that is what the free-verse moment is all about. And that is why A Night Without Armor is well worth the reading.
Author: Jewel Kilcher Book Type: Soft-cover; 160 pages Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st Edition Publishing Date: May 1998 Language: English ISBN: 0-06-107362-8