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Florence Welch’s Useless Magic: a piece of magic that is not useless at all

Today I’ve decided to write an article about Florence Welch’s book, Useless Magic. This book was given to me as a gift by a special person, someone who knows exactly how I feel about Florence and her group, Florence + the Machine. I simply believe she’s a pure spirit in this corrupted world and that we are extremely lucky for the possibility of listening to her.

If you haven’t listened to any of her songs, I highly suggest you do it. I must confess that some of them are so significant to me that I can’t do it. Take Shake It Out, for example: the lyrics are so powerful, the music is so captivating that I cry each time I hear it. This is how meaningful her work is to me.

That said, you can imagine my reaction when I found out she wrote a book where she reported her songs and all the poems she composed. I just had to have it. Full stop. When I got it, I was immediately captured by the clothbound cover. It’s no casualty there is the image of a heart in it. She certainly puts it in everything she does.

In the preface, we learn the singer is not fully aware of the difference between songs and poems, but she gives them both to us. With this gesture, with this book, Florence donates all of herself. We now have all her creatures at our disposal.

The first part is dedicated to her songs. The entire book, both the songs and the poetry part, contains drawings, paintings, notes handwritten by Florence herself. Doing that, not only the singer gives her work to us, but she let us inside her world.

We really get the impression she stands at our side. She opens the gates of her soul: in her notes we see her excited for her first concert, we read about her feelings during a sad day, read as she gets ready for going out, probably with her friends.

The second part displays her poems. As Florence said, the difference between songs and poetry is blurred. The reader realises it immediately: songs and poems constantly blend together, as we can see in New York Poem (for Polly), where she quotes High as Hope (the title of her last album so far).

Powerful images characterise her work and express the meaning it has to her. I think the final part of American Mother is particularly significant:

“I make songs to tie people to me,

With a ribbon of fantasy around their necks

Such a beautiful bow

That I hold in my fist.

And will not let go.”

All the notes are photocopies of Florence Welch’s actual notes. This really gives us the impression of having the singer by our side

Right away, I found these verses familiar the first time I read them. This is because they are written down in a note that opens the collection, just before Florence’s preface. So, they are particularly important because they express the way she feels about her work and the people she reaches. She really puts her music out there for us and creates a permanent bond with everyone. We feel this way when we listen to Florence + the Machine songs, but she feels the same way too.

Florence Welch has suffered in her life, this for sure. She is not afraid of communicating it through her lyrics, which can be seen as a useful medicine that can cure the souls of the ones who’ve suffered, just like her. In I like people who’ve seen some darkness she states the type of people she feels more attached to: 

“I like people who’ve seen some darkness

The haunted ones.

I like people who don’t claim to know what love is

The honest ones.”

This is how she can communicate so deeply to people: as she has suffered, she enjoys the company of people who have been hurt somehow; those who “have seen some darkness”, of course.

I firmly believe this collection is worth reading; as a fan, it gave me the impression of getting to know Florence a little more, to enter her world. For those who still don’t know anything about her, it’s a great opportunity to read and appreciate her lyrics.

What is interesting is the title the singer chose for this book: Useless Magic. As she explains in the preface:

“songs can be incredibly prophetic, like subconscious warnings or messages to myself, but I often don’t know what I’m trying to say till years later. Or a prediction comes true and I couldn’t do anything to stop it, so it seems like a kind of useless magic.”

Well, whereas I understand that a prediction that doesn’t prevent a person from doing something, committing some sort of mistake can be regarded as pointless, I firmly believe Florence should keep on producing her magic. She can literally cure souls. I can say it, for she has helped me in rough periods of my life; I didn’t feel alone thanks to her music. Because, to me, that magic is not useless. It’s not useless at all.


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