Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is the title of Lana Del Rey's first book of poetry. It is the first official book written by Del Rey. It was released on September 29, 2020, accompanied by an audiobook.
Following Lust for Life, Del Rey had been looking for another creative outlet, and after trying painting, she found automatic writing. This process started to turn into poetry and short stories and after amassing numerous works, Del Rey began considering releasing a compilation of writings in a physical book form.
Del Rey first opened up about the poetry book during an interview with Annie Mac on September 12, 2018, where she said that she first started writing poems in the latter half of 2017 during a period of writer's block with music:
- “I think I’m just going to self-publish it and put it out beforehand. It’s kind of random. Which is kind of another one of those things I just want out there just for me. I literally might just drop these little books off at some bookstores in Silverlake and beg them to sell them. It’s been really cool for me ‘cause I was having a little bit of writer's block with the music last Fall and so I just sat down to write some words without music and I realised there was just a couple of things I wanted to say through some poems, which is funny. I feel like I’m in the 19th Century.”
She spoke again about the book on September 18, 2018, during an interview with Zane Lowe after she premiered "Venice Bitch". Del Rey stated that the book will contain short stories and about 30 poems and it will be titled Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.
On January 2, 2019, during a video posted on Facebook, Del Rey announced that the book was finished on the last week of 2018 and that the entire writing process took 13 months.
Between February 20, 2019 and April 11, 2019, Del Rey shared various poems on her Instagram account, including "Happy", "Quiet Waiter Blue Forever", "The Land of 1,000 fires", "Never to Heaven", and "Past the bushes cypress thriving".
Del Rey explained her process for writing poetry turned out to be notably different from her process for writing music. She said:
- "It's sort of in the vein of deep poetry where anything is allowed and it's totally free-form. Sometimes my pages will end with a couplet, right at the end, but it's mostly free-form."
The title itself is from a line in one of Del Rey's favourite poems she has written. The full line being:
- "Violet bent backwards over the grass
Seven-years old with dandelions grasped tightly in her hand"
When the book was first mentioned on September 12, 2018, to Annie Mac during the premiere of "Mariners Apartment Complex" on BBC Radio 1, Del Rey explained that she wished to release the book prior to the release of Norman Fucking Rockwell! in early 2019. When asked by a fan through Instagram about how much the book would cost, Del Rey said “$1… because my thoughts are priceless.”
It was later announced that the physical poetry book would be released on September 29. An audiobook of 14 of the book's poems, accompanied by music composed by Jack Antonoff, would be released before then on July 28.
Through a video uploaded to Instagram, Del Rey confirmed that the book would be released as a spoken word album on January 4, 2020. Also, half of the albums proceeds would be donated to Native American organizations across America. However, Del Rey later confirmed that the album would be released a month later. This audiobook was released on July 28.
Versions translated into Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Hungarian, French, and Italian have since seen release.
The book contains a total of 19 poems and 10 haikus; a type of short poems consisting of three phrases. Only 14 of these poems were included on the audiobook version of the book narrated by Del Rey herself. The book also features pictures taken by Del Rey, pictures from the photography book "Voyager" by artist Melissa Cantanese and The Ice Plant and a section called "Notes for a Poet" at the end of the book, a section in which there are six oil paintings by Erika Lee Sears, the same artist who painted the cover. The poetry book also features a dedication page.
On April 11, 2020, Del Rey uploaded the artwork of the album painted by Erika Lee Sears and a video she filmed in her car whilst one of her poems, "Happy", is playing in the background onto her Instagram. Del Rey later deleted these posts just hours later. On April 23, 2020, she re-uploaded the album artwork to Instagram.
In the order in which they appear on the book:
- "Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass"
- "Bare Feet On Linoleum"
- "What Happened When I Left You"
- "LA Who Am I to Love You"
- "The Land of 1,000 Fires"
- "Never to Heaven"
- "Tessa DiPietro"
- "Past the Bushes Cypress Thriving"
- "Quiet Waiter - Blue Forever"
- "My Bedroom is a Sacred Place Now — There Are Children at the Foot of My Bed"
- "In the Hills of Benedict Canyon"
- "In the Flats of Melrose"
- "Thanks to the Locals"
- "Paradise is Very Fragile"
Starting in March 2019, Del Rey began posting various haiku through social media. There is a total of 10 haiku in the book, which are traditionally short poems made of three phrases.
- Untitled Haiku #1
- "Jasmine in the air | the burden of fame is real | never felt so clear"
- Untitled Haiku #2
- "You in the soft light | the 405 from Venice | a river of red"
- Untitled Haiku #3
- "Wondering if it's | astronomical twilight or civil twilight"
- Untitled Haiku 4#
- "You can have a life beyond your wildest dreams | all you have to do is change everything... | all you have to do is change everything | All you have to do is change everything | all you have to do is change everything"
- Untitled Haiku #5
- "i measure time by the days i've spent away from you | that thought occurred to me | as i watched the sky go dark from blue"
- Untitled Haiku #6
- "No big decisions | to the lake or to the sea | My only question"
- Untitled Haiku #7
- "I stepped on a bird | cried in my new boyfriend's arms | to live is to kill"
- Untitled Haiku #8
- "For years I begged you | to just take me in your arms | you wouldn't. Couldn't."
- First published in the United States by Simon & Schuster Inc., 2020.
- First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2020.
- All interior color photographs by Lana Del Rey.
- Black and white photos for the second, third, sixth and ninth haikus by Lana Del Rey.
- All interior black and white archival photographs are found and anonymous images excerpted from the artist's book Voyager © by Melissa Cantanese and The Ice Plant, edited from the collection of Peter J. Cohen.
- Cover image: Oil painting and design by Erika Lee Sears © 2020.
- Cover typography and design by Ellie Benuska © 2020.
- Back cover author photography by Lana Del Rey © 2020.
- Endpapers meteor image courtesy of Melissa Cantanese and The Ice Plant, from the collection of Melissa Cantanese.
- Six oils paintings in the "Notes for a Poet" section by Erika Lee Sears © 2020.
- Beaumont, Mark (September 14, 2018) "Lana Del Rey’s new 2019 album – everything we know so far"
- Lana Del Rey on Facebook: "Happy New Year"
- Lana Del Rey (December 19, 2019). “Spoken word album - and where it’s going to”. IGTV. [Accessed April 23, 2020]
- Lana Del Rey (April 11, 2020). “A poem”. IGTV. [Accessed April 23, 2020]
- Lana Del Rey reposts ‘Violet’ artwork on Instagram