A Novel Novice Feature: Guest blog by poet Elka Cloke

Hello! This is Elka Cloke, author of Bitter Language, guest blogging for Novel Novice. I’m going to talk about poems and song lyrics in today’s blog, which is one of those topics I can go on about forever because I feel so strongly that song lyrics are poetry.

In order to illustrate this I’m going to take some of the best poems in all history and find their modern song lyric equivalents. Hopefully fans of both will someday learn to forgive me. Here are some of the examples throughout history.

All poets fall in love, and write verses of true devotion:

“SHE walks in beauty, like the night           
  Of cloudless climes and starry skies; 
And all that ‘s best of dark and bright
  Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light            
  Which heaven to gaudy day denies.          
One shade the more, one ray the less,   
  Had half impair’d the nameless grace 
Which waves in every raven tress,   
  Or softly lightens o’er her face;”

— “She Walks In Beauty” by Lord Byron

“She’s got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder and the rain
To quietly pass me by.”

— “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses


All poets fall out of love, and write verses of bitter disillusionment:

“…No where
Lives a woman true and fair.
If thou find’st one let me know;
Such a pilgrimage were sweet.
Yet do not; I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet.
Though she were true when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two or three.”

— “Song” by John Donne

“Come on playa once a ho always
And hos never close they open like hallways
An here’s a ho cake for your whole ho crew
an everybody wants some cuz hoes gotta eat too”

— “Ho” by Ludacris


All poets reach for immortality through their work, and confer immortality on their subjects if successful:

“But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

— “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day” by William Shakespeare

“Don’t tell me you don’t know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I’d still own the film rights and be working on the sequel
And I’m giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book”

 — “Everyday I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello


Even the poets of religious bliss seem to be following the same tradition:

“And though the last lights off the black West went    
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—       
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”         

 — “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“I’m not a human
I am a dove
I’m your conscience
I am love
All I really need is to know that
You believe”

—  “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince


Poetry is bound by the logic of metaphor and does not need to make sense except to your heart:

“Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.”

— “Life Is But A Dream” by Lewis Carroll

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head.
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she’s gone.”

— “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles


Sometimes the printed word can do what the spoken word cannot:










 — “L(a” by e.e. cummings


Sometimes the sung word can do what the printed word cannot:

“And I could say Oo oo oo
As if everybody here would know
What I was talking about
I mean everybody here would know exactly
What I was talking about”

— “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” by Paul Simon


However, this assumes that ink and paper is the medium of poetry and sound alone is the medium of song. That is not entirely true. The true medium of poetry is breath, just like song. The decision to highlight the exceptional abilities of ink or sound is the decision of the artist.

Even some of the forms poets use are the same, most notably ballad poems which are really a song form recited without music:

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I’m after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

— “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes

“M.C.A. was with it and he’s my ace
So I grabbed the piano player and I punched him in the face
The piano player’s out the music stopped
His boy had beef and he got dropped
Mike D. grabbed the money M.C.A. snatched the gold
I grabbed two girlies and a beer that’s cold.”

— “Paul Revere” by The Beastie Boys

Hopefully the above is enough to convince you if you were previously in doubt, but here’s a poll so you can play along at home:

You can read the above poems by clicking on these links:

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