Poetry goes pop

 In my newspaper job, I’ve written about the parallelisms between poetry and pop music lyrics. The theory is that a pop song is the closest thing to a poem that most people encounter.  While that may be true, I hesitate to equate pop lyrics with poetry. A poet must draw music from the words themselves, create the melody of the piece without the benefit of external and additional sources of rhythm.  Songs with average lyrics can fall back on a rhythm section or a face-melting guitar solo, to use Jack Black’s phrase. The poem must stand on its own.  

That being said, I have often found inspiration in lyrics I would call poetic. Musicians whose lyricism I admire are Johnny Cash, U2, the White Stripes, Bob Dylan and Chris Whitley. Whenever I hear someone disparaging U2’s 1997 album “Pop,” I can’t help but interject that it has songs with references to poems by Keats and Yeats. Cash made Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue” famous. And of course, there’s Dylan, who has often been lumped in with the Beat poets.

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~ by ericedits on October 9, 2007.

3 Responses to “Poetry goes pop”

  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptPoetry goes pop October 9, 2007 • No Comments  In my newspaper job, I’ve written about the parallelisms between poetry and pop music lyrics. The theory is that a pop … to equate pop lyrics with poetry. A poet must draw music from the words themselves, create […]

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  2. I liked your post…

    I concur, Pop Songs are the closest most people ever get to poetry.

    And that is kind of sad…but poetry moves to slowly and requires something more than passivity from the listener.

    And the addition of music contributes mightily to lyrics…some of our favorite songs have mediocre “poetry” that sounds deeper than deep because of the addition of music…and that makes people a little more lazy.

    As far as words go – poetry is a more disciplined craft…at least for me…

    Poetman

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  3. Poetman – thanks. You are right: Poetry requires active listeners, and pop music allows for laziness because the rhythm of the music pushes the song forward. A poem rolls along on its own power or it dies.

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