Monday, November 06, 2006

Song Lyrics as Poetry

I have been hearing a bit recently about how people just don't read poetry much anymore and I am wondering just how true this is. Yes most people don't read poetry books thes days, but how many people really did in the recent past. My parents were wide readers and they only had two or three poetry books in their large book collection and at least two of those were compilations.

I wonder if song lyrics haven't taken the place of more formal poetry in popular culture. I know there are a huge amount of lightweight and nonsensical lyrics out there but there is also some powerful imagery and meaningful messages. As a teenager I read a lot of lyrics and one of my favourite lyricists was Bob Dylan, my mum had a book of Dylan lyrics that were written in the form of poetry and I found myself coming back to it again and again, long before I really engaged with his music.

Last night I was watching a programme about Paul Weller on tv and was struck by the power and poetry of some of his lyrics. Wasn't early poetry in the form of song? Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that song is a ancient and accessable medium for conveying message and should be just as valid in a literary sense as a collection of poems. i think in years to come we will find that some of the great lyrics of the 20th and 21st centuries are preserved in poetic form and one of those writers will definitely be Bob Dylan.


Anonymous said...

Good post. Music has been around before the human language, then (after that development) it advanced much more to diretly apply to certain situations. I believe that their are just as many poets out there today, but like in it's hayday weren't well known (only a few) untill other generations got ahold of it. I'm surprised at how many poetry blogs I come across, almost as much as pure short storie ones.

I am an avid reader and I own no poetry books. I believe that poetry is a skill that you're born with and eventually develope into an art form, I lack this, so I find it hard to read. But Thats just me.

she said...

Didn't everyone study some lyrics as a form of poetry in school? I know that Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon were covered in my classes.

I do think that music lyrics are often a more accessible form of poetry for the modern listener/reader, but I'd argue that not all song lyrics would qualify as poetry.

Like omniaif wrote, I think that poetry is a skill and art form that not everyone has the talent and ability to write.

pupski said...

yes I agree not all lyrics qualify as poetry by a long chalk. I wish we had studied lyrics at school - I might have enjoyed school more!