Pagan Poetry

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"Pagan Poetry"
Single by Björk
from the album Vespertine
  • "Domestica"
  • "Batabid"
  • "Aurora"
Released November 5, 2001
  • 5:17 (album version)
  • 4:01 (radio edit)
Label One Little Indian
Writer(s) Björk
  • Björk
  • Marius de Vries
Björk singles chronology
"Hidden Place"
"Pagan Poetry"

"Pagan Poetry" is a song by Icelandic singer Björk, released in November 2001 as the second single from her fourth album, Vespertine.

The single peaked at number 38 in the UK and number 12 in Canada.

Writing and recording[edit]

It was written and produced by Björk with additional production by Marius de Vries and mixed by Mark "Spike" Stent. The music box adaptation, featured in the song, was done by Jack Perron and the full version was later featured as a B-side song on the "Cocoon" single.

Music video[edit]

Björk wearing an in-body-pierced-wedding dress designed by English fashion designer Alexander McQueen in the Pagan Poetry music video.

Background and synopsis[edit]

The music video for "Pagan Poetry", directed by Nick Knight, which as stated on its making-of page, "is about a woman preparing herself for marriage and for her lover." It was also one of Björk's most controversial because of the highly blurry and stylized images of explicit sex it contains, including fellatio and ejaculation, and also images of large needles sewing pearls to the skin.[1] The second half of the video features Björk in a dress designed by Alexander McQueen, which covers only the lower portion of her body. The upper portion of the dress consists of pearls piercing her skin, which is shown throughout the first half.[2] At the end of the video, there is a shot of a Corset piercing.


The video was banned by MTV in the United States, but was eventually shown in unedited form on MTV2 in a presentation of the "20 Most Controversial Music Videos."[3] About the video, Nick Knight explained: "I wanted to strip her down. She's actually quite raw, womanly and sexy. There's a different side to her that doesn't come across normally in her videos. That's what I asked her to do and that's what she did." When asked if Björk was the one who plays the sexual acts as well, he explained: "I gave her [Björk] a Sony Mini DV camera and asked her to shoot her own private scenes ... She asked me to make a film about her love life, so I merely gave it back to her and said, 'Film your love life.'"[2]

Critical reception[edit]

"Pagan Poetry" has been highly praised by critics, with many citing it as a highlight of Vespertine. AllMusic said of "Pagan Poetry" that it "shares a spacious serenity with the album's quietest moments" and included this song as a track pick.[4] Rolling Stone said: "In 'Pagan Poetry', she deploys the implied heaven of Zeena Parkins harp and a flotilla of music boxes with an Asian-teahouse touch."[5] Blender said "'Pagan Poetry' sounds like the prelude to a particularly exotic sexual interlude."[citation needed]

In March 2006, in the number 77 of the Spanish edition of Rolling Stone, "Pagan Poetry" was ranked number 38 by Spanish music professionals and experts on a list of the best songs of the 21st century.[citation needed] Pitchfork Media placed the song at number 227 on its list of "The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s".[6]

Live performances[edit]

In 2001, Björk performed "Pagan Poetry" on the Late Night with David Letterman with a Greenland women's choir, harpist and electronica duo Matmos.[7]

Track listing[edit]

The single release is formed by two CDs and a DVD. The CDs include a remix by Mathew Herbert, a new version of the track "Aurora" found in Vespertine, and the B-sides "Batabid" and "Domestica". In the beginning Domestika was the working title for Vespertine, and the song was included as "Lost Keys", but this was later changed.[citation needed]

CD 1
  1. "Pagan Poetry" (video edit) – 4:01
  2. "Pagan Poetry (Matthew Herbert Handshake Mix)" – 6:16
  3. "Aurora (Opiate Version)" – 4:06
  1. "Pagan Poetry" – 5:17
  2. "Domestica" – 3:25
  3. "Batabid" – 2:26
  1. "Pagan Poetry" (video)
  2. "Pagan Poetry (Matthew Herbert Handshake Mix)"
  3. "Aurora (Opiate Version)"


Chart Peak
Australia (ARIA)[8] 106
Canadian Digital Singles[citation needed] 12
UK Singles Chart[citation needed] 38
French Singles Chart[citation needed] 49
Italian Singles Chart[citation needed] 20
Portugal (Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa)[9] 4
Spanish Singles Chart[citation needed] 6


External links[edit]