You know when a friend works really hard on a project, then asks you to take a look at it and it's not good? But you can't tell them what you really think about it, because god, they worked so hard and you can't crush their dreams?
So Beyoncé wrote a poem to be featured in her spread for CR Fashion Book, a magazine helmed by former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld. If Beyoncé were to ask us what we thought, we'd say she looked so beautiful in the photo shoot! She always looks so good. The poem? Oh, well, she really used some interesting words! Mhmm. Yeah.
... It isn't good.
But she tried so hard! "Bey the Light," her poem that bears the byline "WORDS BEYONCÉ, REMIXED BY FORREST GANDER," has lots of feelings and emotions going on. Unfortunately, it's all Sasha and fury, signifying nothing.
It’s my daughter, she’s my biggest muse.
There’s someone, we all find out soon,
more important than ourselves to lose.
Translation: I care more about my child than myself. A lovely thought, if not exactly groundbreaking.
I feel a deep bond with young children –
all those photos in my dressing room –
especially those who’ve been stricken,
Children I’ve met across the years –
they uplift me like pieces of moon,
and guide me, whispering in my ear
I’m turned to spirits, the emotions of others.
Beyoncé loves kids. They guide her like whispering pieces of the moon.
And I feel her presence all the time
though I never met my grandmother.
Whoa, how did we get here? We were just talking about kids!
I learned at a very young age,
when I need to tap some extra strength,
to put my persona, Sasha, on stage.
So we're just not gonna talk about the grandmother, then? Sure, okay. Anyway, this is Bey reviving Sasha Fierce, who Beyoncé once said she killed. Theoretically, she should be talking about her new alter ego Yoncé here ...
... but whatever, Bey. You can be whoever you want to be. (Doesn't mean you need to include a line about it in a poem.) Skipping ahead a bit:
I saw a TV preacher when I was scared,
at four or five, about bad dreams,
who promised he’d say a prayer
If I put my hand to the TV.
That’s the first time I remember prayer,
an electric current humming through me.
Again, the thoughts here are fine. But what does any of this have to do with the rest of the poem? We need a central thesis (Beysis?) here.
You call me a singer, but I’m called to transform,
to suck up the grief, anxiety, and loss
of those who hear me into my song’s form.
I’m a vessel for all that isn’t right,
for break-ups and lies and double-cross.
I sing into that vessel a healing light.
To let go of pain that people can’t bear.
I don’t do that myself, I call in the light.
I summon God to take me there.
This part is probably the best, and it's clearly what Beyoncé actually wanted to write. So why did it take us eight stanzas to get here? Sure, writers sometimes need to sketch through some unrelated ideas before they get at the heart of their work. But that's what an editor is for. Where did the "remix" come in, Forrest Gander?
There's one half-hearted effort to bring the idea of children back in at the end of the poem, but it's as disconnected as the rest. There is one interesting (and also deeply unreleated) stanza near the end, though:
Utopias, they don’t much interest me.
I always mess things up a bit.
It’s chaos, in part, that helps us see.
We talk a lot about Beyoncé as Perfection, but we always seem to miss the point that Beyoncé herself seemingly wants to get away from that idea. "Perfection is the disease of a nation," she sings on her song "Pretty Hurts." "I woke up like this," she mockingly teases on "***Flawless." And now here, she says that utopia – perfection made universal and real – doesn't appeal to her. "It's chaos, in part, that helps us see."
More than any other popular artist working today, Beyoncé has the most intriguing and self-contradictory ideas about what defines her work. We'd love to see that poem. Just maybe find a better editor next time, Bey.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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