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I cry to my left; I dance to my right

“I Cry to My Left; I Dance to My Right.” Watercolor by Julie Seyler.


Björk and me. As polar-opposite as Iceland and New Jersey. She’s a brilliant musician. I’m a brilliant … hmm. (I can’t recall being called “brilliant.”) She’s an international “queen.”

I’m a “Jersey Girl.”

She can write music like nobody else.

I listen to music — like everybody else.

She can sing.

I carry a tune by plugging myself into my phone and toting the music in me along with me, through dancing, from room to room.

But we do have a parallel. We both recently wrote about betrayal and a breakup. And in keeping with the disparity in our places in the universe — I wrote an essay. She wrote a best-selling, breakthrough album, out of which a MoMA exhibit will spring.

We are dead-on, though, with our innate use of a creative outlet to mine through life events that are coated with agony. Agony that words can’t recount. Until you find the words. We both found the words. We both wrote the words. And, in her big way, and in my little way, our written words hit a collective nerve.

A few days after Julie told me I had to read The New York Times’ article by Jon Pareles, “Sometimes Heartbreak Takes a Hostage,” a review of Björk’s “complete heartbreak” album “Vulnicura,” another friend sent me a link to the Web site Journal.ie, which ranked my BuzzFeed essay as last week’s number-three best read on the Web.

Number one was an interview with Björk about “Vulnicura.”

Cool. So I threw myself into everything Björk. I read what I could find. I bought and repeatedly listened to “Vulnicura.”

I feel her words — both in her music and in her interviews about her album and the process of creating it. The words were mine, but hers. For both of us, moving through betrayal and “the death of the family,” was for me, as was for her “the toughest thing I’ve ever done.”

For both of us it took years to write about it and muster the nerve to put it out in the world. We both wrapped our articulation around the arc of a timeline. We both had a run-in with the magic of karma. And we both came through liberated.

I relate to her metaphors: “You feel like you’re having open-heart surgery, with knives sticking in, so everything is out, and you have this urgency and immediacy. It has to happen right now, that you have to express yourself.”

And her letting-go: “She hopped out of the D.J. booth to dance on the pool table, rolling across it like something in a vintage MTV video. Around midnight, she led her flock to Prikid, a packed hip-hop club, where she danced nonstop, sang along and downed shots of birch schnapps until nearly 4 a.m,” wrote Pareles. (I would have been there, on the pool table, had I been there.)

When I write, I listen to music. I have a stable of songs that I draw from. They range from opera to ’60s pop melodies. I pick the song that moves me along with my writing. I click “repeat” and it plays over and over and over for hours. I blast it. It takes over my head and let’s nothing in but me. Rarely, do the words come to mind without music in my ears.

Sometimes I need violins. Sometimes I need a rousing choir. Sometimes I need Roy Orbison. Sometimes a voice hits me out of nowhere. (B.J. Thomas!?)

But for this piece, I needed Björk and “Vulnicura.” Specifically “Black Lake.”

So while I was formerly more in awe of pieces of Björk (yes, her swan dress, her avant-garde-ness), I am now a forever-fan of all of her. I hear her now.

Me and Björk. We were on the same page. The Icelandic queen and the Jersey girl — scribes of the separation; chroniclers of catharsis. All-consuming, heart-breaking, gut-purging, pool-table-dancing, shot-drinking reclaimers of us.