When music and poetry meet, it can be a beautiful thing. Sometimes, music can carry and keep words in our minds far better than static words on a page. A vocalist can interpret and add an emotional connection to the words. With music, a poem can become an anthem.
So what’s the difference in a song, once poetry gets involved? This is open to interpretation, and argument, as with any art-form that wants to evolve. However, I think it’s safe to say that lyrics, which are also poetry, shouldn’t sound too stupid or naked once the vocals or music are taken away.
Songs lyrics can actually be considered a separate literary genre because they build meaning and emotion in a unique way. Through repetition, tone and rhythm, songs have an incredible power to communicate and tell a story that goes all the way back to tribal times. The power of song can actually change the meaning of a story by the way the words are sung. Spoken word poetry works in a similar way; however, this is only one genre of poetry and does not define all of poetry.
A song lyric needs more, or even less, than a strong message or emotion or a desire to be serious, intellectual or important to be poetry. Of course, that’s arguable.
However, the most irrefutable statement about poetry is that it is not prose. Why does a writer choose to say something in this ‘different’ way? Just to be weird or something? Hopefully, when we choose to express ourselves in verse it is simply because we think poetry expresses, whatever we are expressing, better than prose; and becomes proof that sometimes the human race feels and communicates beyond ordinary speech and language.
So this week’s video, as part of the ongoing poetry campaign on the lyw Youtube channel, is a poetry compilation, taking pieces of lyrics from popular Western music. I was so sure I could quote at least one Smith’s song in this video but, alas, these are lyrics that not only need the singer and music behind them but a strong dose of teenage angst.
I started this video with the opening lines from Homer’s, the Odyssey. It is not a song itself but captures beautifully why literature would want to get up and sing.
Some extra notes about the making of the video:
Google searches for poetic song lyrics are not adequate. I had to dig through my own library for songs thus totally outing myself and my corresponding generation. Though part of this video may seem like I am a Baby Boomer, that is actually one good indication that I am, in fact, Generation X.
The second note, about the making of this video, is that I became acutely aware that my search was limited by the English language. Music is a multi-national and multi-cultural art that unites. Half my collection is not in English. I have no idea what these songs are saying and they still mean so much to me.