- I have a lot of interest in interior rhyming; not just rhyming at the end of the lines, but playing around with rhymes within the lines, playing with where the syllabic emphases in the sentences are, lining those up at strange moments in the line of the song. I’m not sure if that comes across or not.
- dustedmagazine.com, 19 April 2004
- I'm not terribly interested in playing harp on other people's music right now. Partly because I feel like many people view the harp as this kind of gimmick. You know, like they have songs that are fully realized, complete songs, and then they think "How do we make this special? - Ooh, let's bring the harp in!" and they kind of want a harpist to play a glissando and play some heavenly noise in the background. I'm really interested in the harp as a fully actualized, self-contained way of presenting songs. That there is a bass in the harp - there is a way to create a rhythmic sense without drums - there's a way to have all sorts of textural variations and expressive variations.
I also don't want to feel bound to the harp, I'd be interested in bringing other instruments in at some time. But I think the harp has been viewed in one particular way for so long, and has been limited for so long, that I feel like I am really interested in stretching the boundaries of what it's capable of doing and how it's perceived.
- Sunday Service, 13 December 2004
- My voice in combination with the harp - which, by the way, I use because I've played it my entire life, not to make some statement about the harp - somehow has … coloured people's interpretations of the music and projected an idea of childlike or fairytale quality or innocence. Which sometimes prevents people from listening to the songs the way I would like them to be listened to.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 2005
- Well, Nabokov is definitely my favorite author, though I feel strange calling him an "influence," since I can't trace the ways in which his writing may or may not have seeped into my own. But I also love William Faulkner, Thomas Pynchon, Kenneth Patchen, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Mark Helprin (who wrote a beautiful book called Winter's Tale), and Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite book of all time is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.
- chickfactor.com - Issue 16, 2005
Interview with Pitchfork (2006)Edit
- A conversation between Brian Howe and Joanna Newsom, about her album Ys (2006)
- [The title] was the last thing that I chose, after all the songs and the cover art were finished. So none of the songs directly allude to that myth. But the main themes that emerge out of that myth are really close to the themes on the record -- mortality, decadence, an excess of water, isolation, rebirth. The myth is also significant to me because of the way that I encountered it, which relates to one of the huge events the record is about.
I also liked the power of the word itself. I liked how violent and cryptic it felt; it's such a daunting word to encounter. I like how it contrasted this finely rendered, carefully composed front cover -- the painting is information-dense, formal, and stylized; it looks the way something looks when a painter spends a year on it, which is what Benjamin [Vierling] did. So it has all this detail and carefulness to it, which was really important to me and relates very closely to the record. But I also felt like it needed some sort of ballast, or balance, next to it, to reflect the other elements of the record; its innate violence. I wanted a word that was like throwing a brick at the visual on the front cover; I liked that whenever someone looked at that cover they also had to encounter this short, weird word.
- I don't necessarily see the elements that I invoke on the cover and in the songs as being in binary opposition. I know certain binary tensions emerge between these elements, but a lot of times they're more like archetypal elements; these free-standing, huge forces. Mortality, standing alone, as a thing; as opposed to, "Over here's life; over here's death. Here's bad luck, but here's blessing and redemption. Here's water; here's fire." Certainly those things come up again and again in the songs, but it's not intentional, and probably has more to do with the fact that those things emerge in real life, without any effort on our part whatsoever, than they are derived from any classical tradition. I think classicism in general might reflect more closely the natural order of human life, while postmodernism is somehow removed from the natural order, more cerebral and sterile, removed from real life on some level. So what seems like classicism in some of these songs might be just what I view as an accurate reflection of real life on this planet.
- I can't call them linear narratives, and I can't call them chronological in a traditional, classical sense; I'm sure there's plenty of stuff I borrow more from William Faulkner than William Shakespeare. I just find it funny that at this point, we see a collection of highly charged, highly potent symbols as referring back to a classical aesthetic, because to me they seem deeply connected to the pedestrian actuality of real life.
- We sailed away on a winter's day
With fate as malleable as clay
But ships are fallible, I say
And the nautical, as all things, fades.
- And a thimble's worth of milky moon
Can touch hearts larger than a thimble.
- I killed my dinner
kicked him in the face,taste the body, shallow work is the work that I do.
- And all that we built, and all that we breathed
And all that we spilled or pulled up like weeds
Is piled up in back and it burns irrevocably
And we spoke up in turns 'til the silence crept over me.
- And the love we hold, and the love we spurn,
Will never grow cold, only taciturn
- Go to sleep, you stunning sky, gently creep, cunning by
A quiet hum is amplified by your thumb that you suck dry
A hundred raging waters snare the lonely sigh
Hold your breath and clasp at Cassiopeia.
- While yonder, wild and blue,
the wild blue yonder looms.
'Till we are wracked with rheum,
by roads, by songs entombed.
- I do as I please.
Now I'm on my knees.
Your skin is something that I stir into my tea.
And I am watching you
and you are starry, starry, starry...
- Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie
- Emily, I saw you last night by the river
I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water
Frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever
In a mud cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky'd been breathing on a mirror.
- And everything with wings is restless,
aimless, drunk and dour;
butterflies and birds collide, at hot ungodly hours.
And my clay-coloured motherlessness rangily reclines;
come on home now!
All my bones are dolorous with vines!
- We could stand for a century
Staring, with our heads cocked
In the broad daylight at this thing
In bodies that don't keep
Dumbstruck with the sweetness of being
Until we don't be
- Now her coat drags through the water,
Bagging, with a life's-worth of hunger, limitless minnows
In the magnetic embrace,
Balletic and glacial, of Bear's insatiable shadow.
- Then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
While, somewhere, with your pliers and glue, you make your first incision
And, in a moment of almost-unbearable vision, doubled over with the hunger of lions
'Hold me close', cooed the dove, who was stuffed now with sawdust and diamonds.
- And though our bones, they may break
And our souls separate,
why the long face?
And though our bodies recoil
From the grip of the soil,
why the long face?
- Picking through your pocket lining, well what is this?
Scrap of sassafras, eh Sisyphus?
- Well I'm starvin' and freezin'
In this measly old bed
(Then I'll crawl across the salt flats
To stroke your sweet head)
Come across the desert,
with no shoes on?
(I love you truly,
or I love no-one)
- Water were your limbs
And the fire was your hair
And then the moon caught your eye,
and you rose through the air.
Well if you've seen true light,
then this is my prayer:
Will you call me
When you get there?
- "Have you come, then, to rescue me?"
He laughed and said, "from what, 'Colleen'?"
You dried and dressed most willingly.
You corseted, and caught the dread disease
by which one comes to know such peace."
- We are blessed and sustained by what is not said
- By the time you read this
I will be so far away
Daddy longlegs, how in the world
Am I to be expected to stay?
- We broke our hearts,
in the war between
St. George and the dragon,
but both, in equal part,
are welcome to come along.
I'm inviting everyone.
- But it can make you feel over, and old
(Lord, you know it's a shame),
when I only want for you to pull over,
and hold me,
till I can't remember my own name.
- Good Intentions Paving Company
- This is the song for Baby Birch.
I will never know you.
And at the back of what we've done,
there is that knowledge of you.
- held her there,
kicking and mewling,
upended, unspooling, unsung and blue;
told her "wherever you go,
little runaway bunny,
I will find you."
And then she ran,
as they're liable to do.
- And if you come and see me,
you will upset the order.
You cannot come and see me,
for I set myself apart.
But when you come and see me,
you cross the border of my heart.
- A feather of a hawk was bound
Bound around my neck
A poultice made of fig
The eager little vultures pecked
- Wolf-spider, crouch in your funnel nest.
If I knew you, once,
now I know you less.
In the sinking sand,
where we've come to rest,
have I had a hand in your loneliness?
- With the loneliness
of you mighty men,
with your mighty kiss
that might never, never end,
while, so far away,
in the seat of the West,
burns the fount
of the heat
of that loneliness.
- And, when the bulbs do flash,
as bright as morning,
the crowd keeps on gathering
like an electric storm.
- Driven through by her own sword,
summer died last night, alone.
- I may have changed, it's hard to gauge
Time won't account for how I've aged
Would that I could tie your lying tongue
Who says that leaving keeps you young.
- In this life, who did you love,
beneath the drifting ashes,
beneath the sheeting banks of air
that barrenly bore our rations?
- And, for the sake of that pit of snakes,
for whom did you allay your shyness,
and spend all your mercy, and madness, and grace,
in a day, beneath the bending cypress?
- Hung from the underbelly of the Earth
While the stars skid away below
Gormless and brakeless; gravel-loose
Falling silent as gavels in the snow.
- It is too short —
the day we are born,
we commence with our dying.
- Coats of bouclé, jacquard and cashmere;
cartouche and tweed, all silver shot —
and everything that could remind you
of how easy I was not.
- It does not suffice
for you to say I am a sweet girl,
or to say you hate to see me sad
because of you.
It does not suffice,
to merely lie beside each other,
as those who love each other do.
- The tap of hangers,
swaying in the closet —
and empty drawers —
and everywhere I tried to love you
is yours again,
and only yours.