Everyone knows Lou Reed as the lead singer/songwriter of The Velvet Underground but, for a brief stint of time in the 1970s, Reed had quit music for good and vowed to never return.
Instead, he stated, he would now only work as a poet. Music was his past, poetry was his future.
Now, although Reed’s stint as a poet was brief, (after just six months of writing in near seclusion he began production on his solo album) the world of writing was no new turf. He had spent the early years of his youth working and studying alongside writers while in undergrad at Syracuse University, including his friend and mentor, poet Delmore Schwartz. Reed had been a lover of language and words for much of his life (and if you look into his lyrics that becomes even more apparent).
And, on April 23, 2018, a collection of Reed’s writing was released out into the world in an anthology entitled Do Angels Need Haircuts?. The collection contains prose, poetry, essays, photographs, journal entries, and more.
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During the time much of the works were written, Reed had moved back home to Long Island, New York and was living with his parents. He had quit the downtown scene completely, and had begun leading an extremely normal, fairly mundane life.
These poems are powerful because they show an artist wandering through his most vulnerable, disorienting, and seemingly misplaced stage of life. Reed was in his twenties, in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, and was struggling hard to figure out where he wanted to go and what, exactly, he wanted to do with the decades he had left. (It also goes to show that your twenties can be just as confusing for everyone; art rock megastars and penniless millenials alike.
Some of these poems had been published before but some had never before been seen by the public. Here is an excerpt from one piece, entitled We The People:
We are the people without right. We are the people who have known only lies and desperation. We are the people without a country, a voice, or a mirror. We are the crystal gaze returned through the density and immensity of a berserk nation.
This collection is haunting, timeless, and relatable in the most deeply human of ways. That excerpt alone sounds like it could’ve been written today.
Whether you’re a fan of his music, a fan of poetry in general, or interested in a historic look at a chunk of time that will transport you back to the 1970’s, this is the new release for you.
Buy the collection here.
Image Via The Allan Ginsberg Foundation
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