Sufjan Stevens – A Running Start

If you’re looking for a song whose meaning clearly stands out, I’m afraid Sufjan Stevens is not the artist for you. There are a lot of reasons to love a Stevens song, but reading a definite meaning into it is not one of them. As for “A Running Start,” Stevens described it via a press release as being about “the exhilarating power of first loves and first kisses, and finding safety and serenity in the sublime beauty of nature.” It is the third single to be released from his ninth solo studio album, Javelin, and it comes at a time when he’s battling with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an auto-immune condition that affects the nervous system leading to temporal, or in some cases, permanent loss of mobility. Fans are of course wary about this and have sent their prayers in by the boatloads; Stevens’ music helps many people get by.

“If I imagine myself peaceful on the fire escape / Head first, my hands inside my T-shirt, as we run away / So now we have a running start,” he sings in the opening verse.

If there’s one thing that fans expect and adore in Stevens’ song, it’s his poetic description of nature, “I see the light upon the lake / The silver moon, the water snake / A pair of eyes, a gentle breeze / Forgotten tales, a wild beast.” The minimalist use of instruments in the song screams to pay attention to the words because it’s where the focus needs to be.

Stevens wrote and produced the song by himself, and even though we won’t get to see him engaging in any promotional activities for Javelin, it has been accompanied by a 48-page book. It will act as a gateway for fans to explore his artistry on an even deeper and different level than they’ve been able to do so far. Alongside deep-cutting words, the book features hand-crafted collages.

The poetry, like his songs, tends to hide its meaning behind complex sentences that don’t always connect with one another. For example, “I was sensation and consciousness postponed, a wet and placid portion of monotonous fruit cut in quarters awaiting heaven,” and “the music of the heartbeat of the universe danced me to sleep.” However, if you did read the entire poem, titled “My Love,” you’ll notice he’s talking about existentialism.

His fans are in awe of his love and dedication to his artistry – I mean, if he can keep doing this in the midst of a serious illness it must be – and with the depth of emotions that so often burst from his songs. One said Stevens makes it easier to breathe, and it’s not so hard to see why.