Charles Bukowski once wrote, "To say I'm a poet puts me in the company of versifiers, neontasters, fools, clods, and scoundrels masquerading as wise men." Jewel Kilcher, a Bukowski fan responsible for the 10-million-selling pop-folk album Pieces Of You, is now happily joining this disreputable company with the release of her own collection of neontasting, A Night Without Armor. By now, Kilcher's background is pop legend: A displaced Alaskan songstress living out of her van, she achieved great heights after being discovered in San Diego. Her image is so precious, so inflated in its storybook nature that it's easy to want her poetry to suck outright or reveal too much of herself. It avoids that, but it also avoids many other things, such as deep insight into the human condition. Kilcher's poetry is competent and sometimes evocative—most obviously in her barbed short poems—but her age and relative lack of experience show. When it comes to poems about sex, for example, she isn't above resorting to purple clichés: "I'd be your hungry Valley / and sow your golden fields of wheat / in my womb." Sure, it's more evocative than Ice-T's "Let's get butt naked / and fuck," but it's not long on subtlety or cleverness, either. It's hard to say what direction Kilcher's poetry will take after this. Most of her influences, including the aforementioned Bukowski (or, as she spells it, "Bukowsky") and Tom Waits, lived on the periphery for some time before being assimilated into popular culture, if at all. At 24, Kilcher may never again be able to escape into anonymity, and who really wants to read poems about how rotten it is to be rich and famous? For what it's worth, here's a score sheet for A Night Without Armor. Number of times Kilcher refers to bones or describes something as "bony": 8. Number of times Kilcher refers to tongues: 13. Number of times she refers to her own breasts: 4. Number of times she refers to her breasts as "pillows": 1.

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