Are You Listening?

The Punk Poetry of Courtney Barnett

BY: PROVOKR Editors

Courtney Barnett, the Australian singer-songwriter-poet, has risen to be one of the most respected artists in music today. Her latest album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is sharp, empathetic, and full of penetrating observations. The song “Charity” is the standout.

It’s all about the words for Barnett. She is an unexpected, intimate, and spectacular storyteller. She was a big reader as a kid and was at her hometown library near Sydney everyday after school until her Mom picked her up. Even when her Mom didn’t need to park her there she still went. She loved the world of the books. The relationship with words started there. By the time she had picked up a guitar when she was 10 or 12 she began to read every book she could find on Nirvana, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. Her absorption of Kurt Cobain’s music and spirit flows through her guitar. Among her favorite books is To Kill A Mockingbird and she loved the discovery of Shakespeare and poetry in school.

Playing guitar and writing were an immediate marriage but she says she writes more poetry than lyrics. “They’re quite close, they can bleed into each other,” says Barnett, “I was always interested in the words and saying something meaningful was the purpose.”

Below we’re sharing the lyrics and video of her newest release, “Charity,” along with her very first music video, 2015’s “Avant Gardener.” Odd and honestly human, “Avant Gardener” is actually about an asthma attack and a close call on an otherwise normal day.

Barnett has created startling minor masterpieces with both songs. She’s coming in deeper than her first wry efforts and advises us, “Take your broken heart/turn it into art.” You can feel her orchestrate and conduct her feelings into art with a new confidence. Take a look/listen and also treat yourself to reading the poetry of Courtney Barnett.

Charity (copyright Third Side Music Inc Courtney Barnett)

At the end of every season I’m spent up
Keep thinking this will be the one
Hesitation lingers till I’m unreasonable
As if you care, I know you got your own stuff
Going on
You must be having so much fun
Everything’s amazing
You’re so subservient I make myself sick
Are you listening?
Can we talk about it once we’ve slept
And when can we, yeah, can we work it out?
Meditation just makes you more strung out
I wish you had a guru who told you to let it go
To let it go
You must be having so much fun
Everything’s amazing
You’re so subservient I make myself sick
Are you listening?
You don’t have to pretend you’re not scared
Everyone else is just as terrified as you
Medication just makes you more upset
I bet you got a lot to prove
I know you’re still the same
Still the same
You must be having so much fun
Everything’s amazing
You’re so subservient I make myself sick
Are you listening?
You must be having so much fun
Everything’s amazing
You’re so subservient I make myself sick
Are you listening?

Avant Gardener (copyright Third Side Music Inc Courtney Barnett)

I sleep in late
Another day
Oh what a wonder
Oh what a waste.
It’s a Monday
It’s so mundane
What exciting things
Will happen today?
The yard is full of hard rubbish it’s a mess and
I guess the neighbors must think we run a meth lab
We should amend that
I pull the sheets back
It’s 40 degrees
And i feel like I’m dying.
Life’s getting hard in here
So i do some gardening
Anything to take my mind away from where it’s supposed to be.
The nice lady next door talks of green beds
And all the nice things that she wants to plant in them
I wanna grow tomatoes on the front steps.
Sunflowers, bean sprouts, sweet corn and radishes.
I feel pro-active
I pull out weeds
All of a sudden
I’m having trouble breathing in.
I’m having trouble breathing in.
I’m having trouble breathing in.
I’m having trouble breathing in.
My hands are shaky
My knees are weak
I can’t seem to stand
On my own two feet
I’m breathing but I’m wheezing
Feel like I’m emphysemin’
My throat feels like a funnel
Filled with weet bix and kerosene and
Oh no, next thing i know
They call up triple o
I’d rather die than owe the hospital
Till I get old
I get adrenalin
Straight to the heart
I feel like Uma Thurman
Post-overdosing kick start
Reminds me of the time
When i was really sick and i
Had too much psuedoefedryn and i
Couldn’t sleep at night
Halfway down high street, Andy looks ambivalent
He’s probably wondering what i’m doing getting in an ambulance
The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos i play guitar
I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying
Anaphylactic and super hypocondriactic
Should’ve stayed in bed today
I much prefer the mundane.
I take a hit from
An asthma puffer
I do it wrong
I was never good at smoking bongs.
I’m not that good at breathing in.
I’m not that good at breathing in.
I’m not that good at breathing in.