Thursday, January 13, 2011

When songwriters write poetry

10 comments:

Dan C. said...

This happens all the time! Songwriters who write lyrics that can stun at 100 paces try to write "poetry" and fail miserably. I've always felt that some of the best poetry written in the last 30 years can be found among the lyrics of Peter Hammill (see www.sofasound.com), but when he self-published his own poetry, it was pure drivel.

Anonymous said...

gord downie....coke machine glow.
'nuff said

Lemon Hound said...

It's an interesting question isn't it? Waits is one of my writing heroes...

georgemurray said...

I wonder if it has to do with where your process starts. Songwriters like Cohen and diFranco start with words (and rhythm?), I suspect, whereas Waits and most others with melody, and the difference on the printed page is apparent.

Dan C. said...

How many of the Waits lyrics that you like were actually written by his wife?

Lemon Hound said...

@Dan C. oy.

@georgemurray No idea. I keep exploring this with students who are also lyricists. Hoping to have some posts about just this topic soon...

Dan C. said...

Seriously, I think a lot of the lyrics from Raindogs and on were written by his wife, Kathleen Brennan - a very talented woman.

Lemon Hound said...

From the evil wiki:
Waits describes his wife as "a remarkable collaborator, and she's a shiksa goddess and a trapeze artist, all of that. She can fix the truck. Expert on the African violet and all that. She's outta this world. I don't know what to say. I'm a lucky man. She has a remarkable imagination. And that's the nation where I live. She's bold, inventive and fearless. That's who you wanna go in the woods with, right? Somebody who finishes your sentences for you."[1]

I guess he should have had her help him with his poems then?

voxpopulism said...

I have to admit, it's really surprising how much I dislike this. I wonder if, as a songwriter, part of the issue is in where your paradigm of "what poetry is" is located. What are the poets you read BEFORE you started writing poetry? Looks like Waits read a lot of Bukowski, and not the good stuff.

There's an interview out there with Downie about how AFTER he decided to pursue his poems, he read a long list of young Canadian lyric poets, some really good writers on that list. But it didn't help him. I wonder if part of this stuff isn't about getting over the vague nebulous ideas you have about What Poetry Is.

But then again, why would that be any harder for poets-songwriters than it is for poets-anything else?

I really dislike this thing. These poems are manly in a way that makes me feel silly about being a man. I'm pretty much grasping at straws for excuses.

Lemon Hound said...

It's disappointing. But wow, what a songwriter.