Jewel; Or, Get Your Giggle Finger Out Of My Face

My blog isn’t just about my job. Actually, I’m not sure what my blog is about. I’ve decided it can sometimes be about Jewel.

Jewel rubs me the wrong way. It isn’t her jacked up grill. Strangely enough, I respect that she has the money to fix her teeth and doesn’t. I can feel like she’s part of some great dental protest, that her teeth are crooked for a cause. I’d take Jewel’s smile over Jessica Simpson selling me Pro Active any day.


No, my beef with Jewel is long-standing and deep-seeded and beyond cosmetic. It also involves some degree of self-hatred, because when I get drunk at karaoke I am the FIRST to fill out a slip for “Foolish Games” or “Save your Soul.” And a decade ago, in a moment of weakness, I bought a bootleg cassette of Jewel Live and spent the better part of a Fall cruising around Chapel Hill in my silver ’84 Volvo with the sun-roof down, yodeling.

I hate Jewel for her homelessness. This doesn’t mean I hate all homeless people–just Jewel. She lived in her van for a year when she was 18. I still don’t understand if the van was parked in one place or if she could afford gas to drive it around, but either way, she never fails to mention the van in interviews. Being poor sucks, yup. But if I had my choice, I’d take my destitution all at once, undiluted, rather than have it spread out evenly throughout my twenties. I even think I would have been a little excited to live in a van when I was 18 because it would have felt no different than going off to college–leaving home for the first time, cramped room, not much sleep, potato chips in my bed. Jewel was homeless for twelve months and became an international sensation. I’ve spent a third of my life sharing shoebox apartments and qualifying for food stamps and borrowing heavily from the government and I still can’t publish a damn book of poems.

I hate Jewel because she published a book of poems.

I can’t explain it. That feeling I get when I wander into the Poetry Section of my local bookstore and see Jewel snug on a shelf between Randall Jarell and John Keats. I vomit a little in my mouth. For those of you who spent the late 90’s living under a rock or in your van, the book is called “A Night Without Armor.” That’s a stupid name. My friends had cool titles for their thesises, titles like “Fire May Be a Form Of Drowning” or “Monument Avenue” or “Greener.” OK, that last one was mine and I’m partial, but still.

When “A Night Without Armor” debuted in 1998, it was the only book of poems on the Publishers Weekly list, coming in at #22 for the year.

It isn’t that she writes crappy. Well, OK, it kind of is, but I’m all for Jewel jotting down Haikus in her private dream journal. It just isn’t fair that she gets to mass distribute them or star in public poetry service announcements like this:

I get it. She’s making poetry popular. But maybe it’s only her poetry! Maybe the poem we’re supposed to share with the one we love is called “Upon Moving Into My Van!” There’s a lot of bad verse out there in the world. Take, for example, these uplifting lines I found from a blogger in India:

I am nothing
I am nothing
I am nothing for I turn
I turn into nothing
no bleakness
no darkness

I don’t like “I Am Nothing,” I will never turn to it for comfort after a long day at work answering multiple phone lines, but I’m not losing any amount of sleep over it, either. Because this poem will never reach The People. This guy in New Delhi might recite it to a couple of friends while depressed and high but I won’t ever have to contend with it in Barnes and Noble.

Now, here is the Jewel poem, probably read and emulated by millions:

“Upon Moving Into My Van”

Joy, Pure Joy, I am
What I always wanted
to grow up and be
Things are becoming
more of a dream with
each waking day-
The heavy brows of Daily Life
are becoming encrusted
with glitter and the shaking finger
of consequence is
beginning to giggle
Grumpy old men
have wings
Burns sport Halos
and everyday dullness
has begun to breathe
as I remember the
incredible lightness
of living

Yeah, that year living in your van sounded tough, Jewel. And since when is an encrusted glitter brow NOT scary? Or for that matter, a finger that can giggle?

When you google “giggle finger” this is what you come up with:



13 responses to “Jewel; Or, Get Your Giggle Finger Out Of My Face

  1. Pull my-giggle-finger.

  2. Sometimes my finger giggles

  3. what about jiggle fingers? I get those some nights.

  4. I came here via my (our) friend Aaron’s myspace page and while usually I’d lurk, I felt the need to pat you on the back.

    I am also the owner of an old, bootleg cassette of Jewel during her cafe days. Even more embarassing is that I recently saw her in concert. With my dad. It was his birthday present–I swear. And she was totally, completely annoying. She yodeled, recited poetry, and showed off. I know it was her concert but that didn’t mean she had to twist around the melodies of her old, familiar songs in such a way that they showed off her wide vocal range but otherwise sounded like shit. And her bullshit talk between songs about spirituality was similarly (and deliberately?) confusing as the Van poem.

    Anyway, have you seen this?

  5. it’s funny – in my haze of heartache, i actually thought of that jewel song that says ‘please be careful with me, i’m sensitive, and I’d like to stay that way…’ too funny:) i guess we are all a little susceptible to jewel, whether we like it or not.

    but i can appreciate this rant of yours about jewel. and at least you haven’t had a rant blog session about mattie stepanek. at least not yet, i’m sure…

  6. um. yeah. though it didn’t end well for the poor chap, kevin federline got a record deal after spending a year with a van (read: a moving, gaping, trashy piece of chip/cheeto-filled junk.) i am not sure, but i think jewel’s van must have been more talented…

  7. Pingback: Shameless Pugs and Plugs « TryBecca

  8. Jewel makes me want to vomit “my eggs and my pancakes too”.

  9. What is wrong with Jewel’s teeth? Americans have awful fake teeth (no, I’m not British, I’m also American), she looks fine. Her smile is cute.

  10. Ношение солнцезащитных очков, насколько это полезн… [url=]Ношение солнцезащитных очков, насколько это полезн…

  11. Katharine Olson

    I don’t understand your hatred for Jewel.

    Her book failed. Not many people bought it from what I understand… other than die hard Jewel fans. She put the poetry out there to get young people reading, writing. She wanted to make the point that it doesn’t have to be good or perfect. Poetry is sometimes writing from the soul. THAT was the point.

    You are missing the point. Her poetry looks at the upside of living in a van. In reality, her choice to live out of her van was not much of a choice at all. She couldn’t afford rent and kidney medication. She was close to kidney failure when she was homeless. I’ve talked to her about it. It was difficult. A whole year living in a van, not sleeping worrying about burglary, and rape every night. Waitressing and eating food off plates before it went to the trash.

    Yes, it surely sounds like paradise to me.

    I’ve been to a lot of her concerts and she has a “script” of anecdotes she tells at every single one. Word for word, even the tone is the same. She tells the story because it happened. She realizes her story helps others. It’s not to rub our noses in it.

    I realize this is an old blog… Yet i was so angered by the idiocy of it all that I had to respond. You’re not going to find a more real person in the music business than Jewel, please don’t degrade what you can’t understand.

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