Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Think Lyrically

Even though I'm a songwriter, there have been many times when I've written a poem specifically and the feedback I've received is that it seemed lyrical. "You should write music to that and make it a song."  That's a good feeling. Perhaps it's a subconscious thing that occurs naturally when I write from years of doing what I do and from listening to music incessantly while studying the album and later, the CD lyrics and liner notes.  Remember that? It made the experience so much richer to sit down and really listen to the lyrics while reading along.

It's a good exercise to try; sit down with your favorite album and pull out the lyrics and really listen. Pay attention to the rhythm of the words and how they work with the music. When you sit down to write your own poetry, you might find that you'll hear it in your head differently. Maybe a line will come to you in a more musical incarnation. I can't think of a better example than Bob Dylan. There is a wealth of material there that stands alone as poetry and the way he weaves his lyrics into song is sometimes unconventional, which lends itself to a teachable poetic lesson. Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, the aforementioned Suzanne Vega...all are prime examples and that's just in the folk genre. Perfect examples can be found in any genre - even and especially rock. Patti Smith is first and foremost a poet. Her poetry books, such as Auguries of Innocence, are collections of beautiful, ethereal prose.

Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines in my face get me clearer
The past is gone
It went by like dusk to dawn
Isn't that the way 
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay

Recognize that stanza? It's from Aerosmith's "Dream On'. I've always thought that song was particularly poetic. 

So give it a try - think lyrically. See what beautifully poetic music comes to mind. 

For more musical reminiscence, I invite you to visit the new website that Jen Kehl of My Skewed View, Lance Burson of My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog and I have launched called Raised On The Radio. It's entirely dedicated to the music and lyrics we grew up listening to on the radio.  Stop on over and get your creative juices flowing.


  1. What a great idea. When I was a young 'un I would always study the liner notes. I learned so much that way.... and yes, I would sit on my floor, stereo playing the LP with those great big speakers, me humming along until I could sing along...oh, loved it.

    I remember suggesting to my friend Ivy she use Dan Fogelburg's "The Netherlands" in a sophomore (high school) poetry assignment. She did! I love Janis Ian's lyrics - love continuing to follow her now on facebook... Carly Simon, Carole King.... and I had a huge crush on Jackson Browne when I was in high school. Ah! The truth comes out!

    Thank you, Linda! Loved reading this post! Now, to find something new, different and lyrical to listen to.....

    1. I loved doing that too Julie! I think that's something that's gotten lost in the digital age. All the artists you mentioned are favorites of mine and their lyrics are fantastic.

  2. "Dream On" is one of the few songs i really love :)
    And yes , sometimes reading aloud your poem on a music from your own making is so rewarding and fun :)

  3. Music is like breathing to me! I love how the lyrics of so many different genres stand alone as wonderful poems. My musical taste is extremely eclectic, so my lyrical influences are rather broad. My favorite lately has been "Endangered Species" by Dianne Reeves. "I am an endangered species/But I sing no victim's song/I am a woman/I am an artist/And I know where my voice belongs."

    1. For me too. That is so true. I'm going to check out Dianne Reeves. I like those lyrics. I have eclectic tastes too and it would be interesting to play with different lyrical styles in poetry.