Nat’l Poetry Month – How Music Fits

In honor of National Poetry Month, we’re celebrating a “Music Weekend” here at Novel Novice with discussions about poetry and music, featured videos, creative writing prompts, and… a new contest (check back tomorrow for all the details!).

So let’s get to it…

How often have you become attached to a song because of its lyrics? If you’ve never thought about it before, consider it now, because those words you love and connect with? They’re poetry.

Many of Bob Dylan‘s lyrics could be considered epic, narrative poems. He is a master songwriter. The words that accompany his music are filled with unexpected imagery, unusual pairings, and inspired end rhymes. The workings of his creations are unexpected, and that is always something to love about poetry. “Like a Rolling Stone” is one of the best songs ever written – lyrics and music. A taste:

You said you’d never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

Just a handful of other standouts from this prolific artist – “Highway 61,” “Hurricane,” and “Tangled Up in Blue.”

Some people have chided Alanis Morisette for writing songs that are like “diary entries.” But I’m thinking those folks are just jealous of phrases like “jagged little pill.” (And let’s face it – this woman can write and sing about post-relationship anger like no other. Women and men alike can relate to this recuperation from heartbreak.) Some lyrics from “You Learn“:

I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
I recommend walking around naked in your living room
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles

But this talented woman is also capable of softness and light, as she showed in “Thank U.” Another beauty of poetry, whether it’s accompanying music or printed in a book – you can change who you are from poem to poem, song to song. You can write about experience, growth, strength, disappointment, and everything in between. And even though it’s very personal, people still get it – they’ve been there, done that. Doesn’t make the words cliche… it makes them universal.

And then there are my favorite musical poets, the ones who have seen me through illness and sadness and life-changing events – the Counting Crows. When I was in grad school, one of my relatively famous professors said Adam Duritz showed up at one of her poetry readings. He was starstruck and honored to meet her. All I could think was, “Adam Duritz! He is the master poet!”

I love the majority of what the Counting Crows have created… but my favorite song is from their third album, This Desert Life. Here’s a snippet of “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby“:

well, I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame
I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame
If you’ve never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame
and though I’ll never forget your face,
sometimes i can’t remember my name

Share the musician/band whose lyrics mean something special to you. Or tell us what other artists you think fit into the categories of both musician and poet.

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