A kinder, gentler Instagram Live: Hozier's poetry Fridays

Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 6:32pm

NOSELL

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Let it be known that Hozier, Irish singer-songwriter extraordinaire, receives poetry books as Christmas gifts. Yes, The man behind our favorite sleepy Sunday morning tunes with his poignant, dreamy voice reads poetry. And, most importantly: If you tune in to Instagram Live at the right time on Fridays, Hozier will read a selection of poetry to you. For the past four weeks, Hozier presented a kinder, gentler side of the internet. His performance of casual loungewear and literary greats found purchase with casual and ardent listeners alike. He will repeatedly and endearingly fumble through poetry books to find a specific poem.

With his hair combed back into a messy yet practical bun, Hozier faces away from his recording phone while reading. He looks clean, calm and human. Mundane. He speaks informally to fans and casual listeners, quickly mentioning the name and author of his chosen poems before diving into some great works. He keeps his voice steady and calls Yeats “sassy” before moving on to another poet. 

Homey and comfortable, Hozier slows down and invites others to pause their lives to appreciate the quiet and subtle beauty of good writing.

The relentless self-promotion native to Instagram Live streams is notably absent. Hozier has yet to descend on a long, self-seeking monologue of his COVID-19 grievances. In a surprising but not unwelcome change, he simply reads poetry, no insensitive commentary or unskippable adverts attached. There’s no hyperactive positivity. There’s no accompanying band or microphone. Instead, what you have is what you hear. Hozier, unassuming, kindly reminding listeners to wash their hands and stay safe while sharing his interests.

His voice doesn’t pretend that the world outside makes sense. His slow cadence acknowledges the challenges of the present yet remains soothing. There’s a startling lack of artifice. Hozier dips his head while reading, focused on shaping the words. He is reminiscent of a graduate student instructor, overworked and bibliophilic.

However, Hozier’s Friday poetry corner readings, while humble and calming, still serve as performance: a new kind of performance, long estranged from my 21st-century brain conditioned to accept and process a relentless stream of 15-second TikTok clips. But it is a performance all the same.

Hozier films seated comfortably in front of a large window showing off gorgeous spriggy trees. Nature functions as the backdrop to his relaxed intimacy. It’s fitting that Hozier frames his poetry readings with nature. His fans famously manipulate his music, overlaying nature sounds with his recordings to draw out the serene core of Hozier’s discography. 

Hozier takes his time reading, broadcasting an ideal calm. For a short moment, his quiet, soothing voice transports listens from their daily, hectic lives. 

These intimate performances epitomize the kind of relaxed introspection we desperately crave in our busy work day. Hozier’s poetry corners tell us that Hozier is but a man who enjoys the finer things in life: poetry, heather mock necks and W.B. Yeats (among many others). And, his performances model by example an enviable state of quiet appreciation.

Hozier doesn’t ask questions about the wild stress and fear a man refusing to wear a mask in the grocery store inspires. He doesn’t reprimand you for your tired typos and rushed Zoom meetings. Hozier performs a fantasy, one hallmarked by cozy pull-overs and a natural background. The events are a little boring yet the simple, straightforward premise of poetry reading compels. Hozier draws in listeners with his baffling, unassuming display of mundanity: a man with clean hair and a nice voice reading nice things. And yes, he is also famous and therein lies the spectacle. 

Wooed by his Poetry Fridays, Saturday morning I attempted to emulate Hozier’s rainy day calm. I quested for peace by ironically scheduling a morning relaxation session to combat the hyper-scheduled stress of the day. After completing my daily morning email rituals and sacrifices, I took breakfast outdoors. One in nature's embrace, batting away eager bugs, I started journaling. With Hozier's "Cherry Wine" playing out softly from my speaker, I began listing things that delighted me that morning: dappled early morning shade, shiny cherries pairs, half-moon mango skins. 

My moment of idealized morning fantasy held for 10 minutes, a period elongated by my determination to ignore the sweat pooling behind my knees. Ultimately, I found the experience somewhat unenjoyable yet undeniably helpful. The 10 minutes spent listening, breathing fresh air and enjoying a slice of peace helped anchor me to the present, providing a temporary reprieve from the concerns and anxieties of a looming workday. I was able to better organize my thoughts in that 10 minute span and practice appreciation.