Courtney Bush’s poetry collection I Love Information, winner of the 2022 National Poetry Series, marvelously informs and questions with both form and content.
The Millions wrote of the book:
“In Bush’s comfortably disjointed poems, surprise and pleasure are nearly constant, each line its own song. She saves profluence for clever pairings [. . .] Bush writes at the convergence of modernity and mysticism, turning her poems inside out.”
Music itself may be a language, but, devastatingly, it’s not one that I understand. I’m so in love with words, they are almost all I can hear. Words are the kind of information I am tuned to receive. When I respond to songs, I’m almost always responding to the lyrics. I don’t know if I like music, but I love songs. When choosing songs for an I Love Information playlist, I chose songs related to the theme of belief, which is the point around which the poems in my book revolve. Belief is something we create to process the constant stream of information, which is what I call the material world transformed into language, a transformation performed by us, the transformation Rilke proposed is our only task. Do I sound like a poet? Forgive me.
What It’s Like (Arthur Russell)
What is it? The song’s narrative approaches it, whatever it is we are all constantly approaching. I think it’s belief. In the second half of the song, a girl named Kate, who tries to love a man who leaves her because he loves the Lord, tells us what it’s like. She only tried it, in the first place, to find out what it’s like. Speaking of belief, I strongly believe this is the greatest song that has been or ever will be given to us. It has the secret chord.
Into My Arms (Nick Cave)
A noble, terrifying experiment in extending belief in the name of love. “I don’t believe in an interventionist God, but I know darling, that you do. But if I did, I would kneel down and ask him not to intervene when it came to you.” He goes on to tell us every beautiful thing he would do if only he believed what his darling believed. Belief can bend.
St. Cloud (Waxahatchee)
This song proposes that whatever we believe happens to the dead is what happens to the dead. In Katie Crutchfield’s third and final proposition on the dead in this song, she decides that if the dead just go on living/ then there’s nothing left to fear. We can build worlds of belief to release us from fear.
Long Forgotten Fairytale (Magnetic Fields)
I believe in using the language of fairytale and myth to process what we have a hard time understanding. Like a cruel lover who returns from far away, smoking his same old cigarettes. I also believe in dancing.
Let’s Get Out (Life Without Buildings)
Look around. Just information. In the leaves, in the leaves, in the leaves. I still believe in getting low. I still believe.
Satan Is Real (The Louvin Brothers)
I love this narrative song in which a sinner, specifically my favorite sinner Ira Louvin, tells a church congregation that if they are going to believe in God, they have to believe in Satan too.
Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)
This song is about following an unreliable narrator, someone perhaps “half-crazy,” someone perhaps having a mystical experience. And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers. The garbage and the flowers, also known as information.
Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have but I have it (Lana Del Rey)
One form of belief I am invested in is the kind one finds within “madness.” When I was manic, driven by some of the strongest, most delusional beliefs I’ve ever operated within, I would sit at my bathroom window and smoke cigarettes and listen to this song on repeat, playing on my terrible phone speakers. “Hello / it’s the most famous woman you know on the iPad / calling from beyond the grave / I just wanna say, hi dad” – I love this information.
The Man Comes Around (Johnny Cash version)
Religious belief. Is there a more powerful and terrifying kind? I listen to this song constantly. It’s a part of me. Listening to this song is one of our best opportunities to listen to the perfect, earth-bound voice of Johnny Cash sing us a version of the Christian story about what will happen when the Seventh Seal is broken and the end of times is here.
The Waters of March (Art Garfunkel version)
This is a song of pure information. Why does that one repetition make me want to cry? When he sings “it’s the mud, it’s the mud.”
Anchored In Love (The Carter Family)
During the years I was writing these poems, I innocently sang this hymn to the two children I took care of (I work as a nanny) every single time I put them down for a nap until I accidentally made them obsessed with Jesus and had to explain that to their parents, who were forced to listen to Anchored In Love by the Carter Family every time they got in their car for several months.
Number One Song In Heaven (Sparks)
How wonderful that we, we mere humans, get to hear the number one song in heaven! And how funny and perfect that the number one song is heaven is about itself. What else could it be about? Isn’t that the whole point of the divine, that it is impenetrable because it is complete? Like a mirror facing another mirror. It also helps that it is an irresistible dance song of unadulterated joy.
Courtney Bush is the author of I Love Information and Every Book Is about the Same Thing. Her films, made with collaborators Jake Goicoechea and Will Carington, have been screened at festivals internationally. She lives and works as a nanny in New York.