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Poetry vs Lyrics?


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To my mind:

  • 'Poetry' can take on any form.  It is prose broken down into lines which may or may not have rules of interdependence such as rhythm, syllable count, rhyme or continuance.
  • 'Lyrics' are poetry set to music.  Sometimes rhyming, sometimes not. Sometimes crammed into every spare second. Sometimes sparse. Sometimes being just one phrase repeated ad nauseam.

 

If the above is true, why bother having two separate discussion groups in Songstuff?

 

I have raised the subject of "Poetry vs Lyrics" with someone I know who writes poetry professionally, without getting a satisfactory answer. I've also searched this Forum for "Lyrics" without finding a full-on discussion in relation to a comparison with 'poetry'.

 

Is a poem set to music no longer a poem?

Are lyrics, not written with music in mind, really a poem?

 

Elton John attributed credits to Tim Rice as Lyricist.  But Tim never heard the music until Elton had finshed writing the music, using the words as a source of inspiration.

 

Sheet music sometimes say 'Lyrics by', other times it is 'Words by'.

 

All moot and probably not worth the electrons to discuss, but I'm always fascinated by such inconsistencies in language.

 

Greg

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Poems, though they might be lent to music, always struck me as an essay stripped down to essential meaning. I also associate poems with the elite, the reading class. Lyrics, with their rhymed storytelling, seemed more for the proletariat, particularly before formal education was widespread. The rhyming (a la Shakespeare's couplets) help the illiterate remember the refrain.

 

Then again, as much of art grew out of its association with ritualized worship, perhaps the lyric was a devotional meant to be used to express joy or pleasure whereas poems were more serious worship tomes. 

 

Whatever, I think the distinction became blurred somewhere in the 1960s with the rise of the singer-songwriter recording artists like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell or Gil Scott Heron whose words could stand on their own without music and be utterly coherent and even transcendent art, like poems. I don't think that happened often in popular music prior to this. And now we use the terms interchangeably much the same way we comingle "soda" and "pop" for that tingly refreshment.

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Well, I don't really mind if Poetry and Lyrics were in the same category, just as long as the writers label them appropriately before seeking feedback, as the rules of writing differ quite a bit.

 

Nice topic of discussion!

Edited by ImKeN2
Word change
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