The Poet Ms. Lauryn Hill

For those unaware, the singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill soared into the music scene as part of the hip-hop trio “Fugees” before launching her solo career with the critically acclaimed album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ The album was dropped at the height of her stardom, under enormous stress from the media about the identity of her unborn child, the grandson of Bob Marley. The entire album, but especially the eternally jammable, “To Zion”, is beat poetry centered around the theme of motherhood and unconditional love.

Initially, Hill talks about the trials of choosing to become a mother

But everybody told me to be smart

Look at your career they said

“Lauryn, baby, use your head”

But instead I chose to use

my heart

This line speaks of the trials of motherhood facing a successful woman. When it comes to starting a family, so often in the music industry, as with the rest of the world, the freedom and flexibility afforded men isn’t available across the gender line. The media was asking why. When she’s at such an important moment in her career, why would she get pregnant now? Hill’s answer is clearly heard rest of the song.

Woe this crazy circumstance

I knew his life deserved a chance

“The joy of my world”, chanted throughout the song speaks of more than the joy of having her first child, there is a tone of fearlessness in the words that come from Hill choosing happiness.

Whirl on Silver Wheels

Perriane describes poetry as “something central to existence, something having unique value to the fully realized life, something that we are better off for having and without which we are spiritually impoverished.” However, in society, poetry is often undervalued. People do not read poetry like they read books. Perriane’s description would make much more sense when applied to a different art form — music, for example. In fact, music and poetry have much in common. Both have the ability to use figurative language, tone, and syntax, to together convey complex ideas. Looking at poetry and music in this sense makes the line between the two become blurry. I argue that, in some cases, music is poetry just as much as classic poetry. 

Silver Wheels” by Bruce Cockburn is an outstanding example of true music poetry. In it, Cockburn uses multidimensional language to highlight the exciting monotony and beauty of a long drive throughout the country and into the city in a way that can only be considered poetry. The first verse

High speed drift on a prairie road

Hot tires sing like a string being bowed

Sudden town rears up then explodes

Fragments resolve into white line code

is full of figurative language, all of which create a picture of the world rushing by as you drive across long, repetitive roads. For example, the slow, calm word “drift” in the first line contrasts the use of “high speeds” and later “Sudden town rears up then explodes” which work together demonstrating how the repetitive motion of driving still includes a sense of unique awe and interest, even with something as small as a town. The whole verse also acts as imagery of the scene with its use of language, particularly in the last two lines. They create a clear picture of small communities whirring past and disappearing in the distance behind a car window in a particularly beautiful way. 

After this first verse, the music poem transitions into descriptions of different environments seen on the drive, from nature to construction zones to a busy city, all with the same depth of language displaying unique sights and beauty. Importantly, even though the descriptions are different, the same structure is used in all verses. Each has the same rhyme scheme and cadence, and the general tone is maintained. This preserves the same feeling of the first verse throughout the song, emphasizing how much beauty and interesting change can be seen in the repetitive, lulling drive described. Clearly, through its complex use of language and structure to display a unique experience, “Silver Wheels” is true poetry.

Ironically Poetic Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is a musical that portrays the impact music has on a family in Austria just before WWII. The opening theme, “Prelude / The Sound of Music,” is a poem ironically about music with musical augmentation.

Prelude / The Sound of Music” asserts that music inspires humans to enjoy life. The “speaker” of the song, Maria, is a nun who is not allowed to sing or participate in any music with others. The sounds that originate from the ageless environment around her act as inspiration for her to live.

In the first verse, Maria uses personification to highlight the way music can bring anything to life. She sings

The hills are alive with the sound of music

With songs they have sung for a thousand years

The hills fill my heart with the sound of music

My heart wants to sing every song it hears

Maria personifies her heart by claiming it is filled with the sound of music and that it wants to sing. She wants to capture the inspirational effect natural music has on a fundamental human organ and symbol of the soul, the heart.

In the next verse, Maria begins to describe the ways the is moved by the music of nature. She sings

My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds

That rise from the lake to the trees

My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies

From a church on a breeze

To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over

Stones on its way

To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray

She continues to personify her heart in different ways and uses wordplay to convey her musical connections to the environment. For example, she claims her heart wants to “beat,” because hearts beat to pump blood through the body. But she compares her desire to the beating of the wings of birds. Maria utilizes the sound of her voice to add musical color to the poem as well. For example when she sings “chime that flies,” her voice goes up in pitch, like something that would fly. Maria also takes advantage of syntax. Each example entails a more complex experience supported by the music of nature. She begins the verse with the fundamental beating of a heart.  She transitions to laughing, a human quality that does not appear until after a few months of a baby’s life. She finally ends the verse with singing, a complex human talent.

Maria ends the song with opinions on other humans. She sings

I go to the hills when my heart is lonely

I know I will hear what I’ve heard before

My heart will be blessed with the sound of music

And I’ll sing once more

The first line of this verse is strategically placed immediately after the last line of the last verse. Singing inherently involves other people, while loneliness is the absence of other people. However, Maria is comforted by the natural sounds of music, and can continue enjoying life.

O Children

Both music and poetry say so much while saying so little. In reality, the only big difference between the two is that song is put over instrumentals, while poetry’s rhythm comes from strategic breaks in lines. Poetry is made to elicit an emotional response from the reader, to allow them to feel for the speaker and the situation they encounter. Similarly many songs, but certainly not all, pull emotion from the listener by connecting their own experience to the vague yet telling lyrics.  

Similar to both song and poetry, Harry Potter immerses you into its world, I first found O Children by Nick Cave and the Bad seeds when it was in the soundtrack of the last Harry Potter movie. However, It has become a song in my regular rotation and extends much more insight and meaning than just a song from a movie track.

“O Children” is a song that could be debated to tell the story of Jewish people during the Holocaust. It follows those at the camp as they watch their friends get sent off to the gas chambers and in the end, the narrator does too. This disgusting time is portrayed in an elaborate but simple way because the lyricist never explicitly explains that this is what this song is about, you must dive into the lyrics to best understand the premise of the song

The cleaners are coming one by one

They are knocking now upon your door

You don’t even want to let them start

They measure the room, they know the score. 

They’re mopping up the butcher’s floor

Of your broken little hearts

In the following excerpt, it can be seen that the song only eludes to the subject but will not spell out the meaning behind the words. A few examples of this are shown above, “cleaners” are the Nazis supposedly cleansing the population, going from house to house to “measure the room”, they look for secret rooms or hiding spots. This same metaphorical language continues throughout the song. 

Another reason this piece by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds is poetic is that its vague, interpretable language and word choice creates a picture and makes the listener imaginative. The lyrical choice and background music work together to effectively create a heavy and ominous feel to the entire piece. The diction is displayed best in the following lines with “dim”  and “weeping.

We’re older now, the light is dim

We’re all weeping now, weeping because

There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you

Like any good poem, this can be interpreted in different ways, it could be deemed to have nothing to do with the Holocaust but rather that it’s about the lyricist’s view on the detriment of generations and recovery. However, I believe that this is the clearest interpretation where the explanation does not contradict other parts of the song. By the end, the artists illustrate the speaker being sent off to the gas chambers by train, while this is a devastating end, it has a happier light to it than the rest of the song. The speaker is content with death, they are able to meet up with those who were lost before them and finally be free of the Nazi’s hold.  

Separate from the interpretation of the song, I would like to talk about the deliberate choice of the song in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. In the film, there was a war that draws many parallels to World War two, as “purebloods” attempt to wipe out “half-bloods” and those with non-magic parents to take control of the magical society. This song is played as Harry and Hermione slow dance after listening to radio reports of numerous fallen wizards and as tension was high within their trio and the wizarding society as a whole. The song fits very well with the circumstances that took place in the film and it pulls a lot more meaning and perspective into the scene.

Bands and Balalaikas

If there was ever a song to represent the euphoric hope which existed near the end of the Soviet Union and Cold War, “Wind of Change” by the Scorpions from the album Crazy World would be that song. Written shortly after and based upon a music festival where the Scorpions performed in Moscow, Russia, “Wind of Change” is a power ballad expressing the experiences of connection and societal shifts occurring at the time.

The central theme present throughout “Wind of Change” is that changing circumstances and situations over time will inevitably result in larger societal changes, as the dreams and expectations of individuals shift inexorably. These changes, although sometimes drastic and wide-ranging, will generally tend towards being beneficial to those populations by allowing greater interpersonal connection. The song seems to deepen the experience of optimism and hope which permeated throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War, taken from an outsider’s perspective. Although the audience for the song seems to be music audiences from the West, and especially English-speaking audiences, the song’s more primary purpose seems to be in communicating its themes of change and experiences of hope to populations in the Soviet sphere of influence.

In the first verse of the song, the Scorpions use symbolism of the “wind of change” and vivid imagery to convey the sense of how societal changes have made their way through every aspect of life in Moscow and which are visible to even outside observers. The speaker sings,

I follow the Moskva

Down to Gorky Park

Listening to the wind of change

An August summer night

Soldiers passing by

Listening to the wind of change

The usage of “Moskva”, “Gorky Park”, and “Soldiers passing by” specifically create an image of a traveller going down the Moskva River through a controlled Moscow. This relatively calm setting is disrupted by an intermittent “Listening to the wind of change”, emphasizing how far that “wind of change” has seeped into the surrounding setting that it can not be ignored any longer. This idea is also reinforced by the usage of “wind” as the purveyor of change in the whole song – unless an individual lives underground or underwater, there is no way to escape the wind or what it brings. Therefore, everyone will take notice of changes occurring in the fundamental relationships of society, from visitors to soldiers.

The song directly addresses the audience with two rhetorical questions in the second verse to emphasize how the situation that the speaker and audience find each other in is entirely novel, and was essentially unthinkable until recently. This seems to parallel the dynamics between the West and East near the end of the Cold War, especially as the nations began to form more open and frequent connections. The speaker sings in the second verse,

The world is closing in

And did you ever think?

That we could be so close?

Like brothers

The two rhetorical questions quite literally emphasize how the societal changes occurring were inconceivable until recently and the new connections that outsiders are making with the population of Moscow. They also serve a dual purpose in making clear the intended audience of populations behind the Iron Curtain, as well as making it even clearer that the speaker is generally based upon the Scorpions themselves. Another notable line within this verse is, “Like brothers”, which also emphasizes the connection made between the speaker and the audience to the extent that they seem like siblings.

Though not directly related to the language, one other thing I would like to point out about this verse is how Klaus Meine sings it. His inflections and pitch of the rhetorical questions are nearly identical to the corresponding matter-of-fact lines from the first verse, which might seem to somewhat imply that the current situation would have been simultaneously inconceivable in the past and inevitable.

The ideas present in the second and third verses are tied fairly close together, with personification used to emphasize the idea that it would be inconceivable to stay stuck or beholden to the memories of the past, the inverse of the idea emphasized in the second verse. The speaker sings,

Walking down the street

And distant memories

Are buried in the past forever

Here, the lines “distant memories” being “buried in the past” emphasize how even though the current connections being made seemed inconceivable before, the memories of the past are now being stripped of their influence for better or worse. With changes in society come changes in how the past is viewed and interpreted and sometimes even remembered. Another notable device in the verse is the diction used for the words to describe the memories, being “distant”, “buried”, and “forever”, further emphasizing the large gulf between the past and present even if it was not necessarily too long ago.

“Wind of Change” by the Scorpions is simply powerful and powerfully simple. Through careful multilayered usage of symbolism, metaphor, and diction, the song conveys the indescribable atmosphere of joy and hope present near the end of the Cold War with large structural societal changes imminent. It emphasizes the seeming inconceivability and inevitability of such shifts and the interpersonal connections formed as a result. It has touched generations and will continue to connect with people in the future as a power ballad of hope, optimism, and change.

Everyone Knows “All Too Well” a Little Too Well

At this point, we should all know the song “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift because it has pretty much blown up the internet and music industry. Taylor wrote this song and realized it in 2012. However, Taylors music got stolen from her, and she ended up recording the album Red except for this time, it is called Taylors Version. This has brought all of these older songs to the front of Tayor fans’ minds again. As I started to think about it, “All Too Well” is written as a poem. The overall meaning and theme of “All Too Well” is Taylor longing for the memories and feelings she got from a relationship that once was good but slowly fell apart in her hands. She goes back and forth, remembering every detail of the relationship a little too well. Throughout this song, Taylor flashes back to detailed and specific memories to show that relationships that start great and sweet can always turn bad and end up rotting. Taylor describes the early stages of the relationship using the simile, “autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place”, which shows how complete and whole she felt while with him. This line also references the time frame of the relationship, which would be autumn. Throughout the song, Taylor repeats the phrase “I remember it all too well,” this is basically enforcing her feelings and shows the listener that this relationship was impossible to forget, and she remembers every detail clearly because that is how much it had an impact on her life. She also mentions the heartbreaking details she remembers, such as “in the middle of the night, we dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light,” which cleverly uses rhyme in “night” and “light.” Overall, Taylors song “All Too Well” was such a cleverly written song/poem that shows all of her feelings from the begging to the end of this devastating relationship.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (Songs from the Big Chair) is a multi-dimensional song, expressing the power-hungry motives of us as a society, the abuse of authority in the US government, and even our own personal ambition. Many people have debated the intent and meaning behind the lyrics, coming to the conclusion that there is a political message being expressed. The title is the message; every person, whether specifically striving for this goal or not, wants power and/or authority.

“Turn your back on Mother Nature”

The human species has developed a society that destroys the earth through large corporations and their participation in pollution, the mass consumption of animal products that increase green gases, and our overall involvement in destroying “Mother Nature”. The personification of Mother Nature and the action of us as a society backstabbing “her” emphasizes humans’ hunger for power, to the extent where we’re willing to wreck the earth.

“All for freedom and for pleasure

Nothing ever lasts forever”

As a society we strive for the most, even if it isn’t stable enough to last forever. This quote represents short-lived successes within our own lives, our communities, our families through the utilization of an allegory. The central idea of the stanza is that we indulge in things that make us satisfied and happy, but those indulgences usually don’t fulfill us for long enough. Following the idea is a hidden moral, encouraging us to seek out the stability in life, the things (whether they’re material goods or emotions) that are more than just pleasurable, and may last longer.

“Everybody wants to rule the world”

This hyperbole expresses Tears for Fears’ intent of spreading the idea that whether we agree or disagree, we all have the urge to be at the top, through authority figures, rankings in class, etc. It all goes back to the one central message that the human species’ history of war, genocide, the building of empires, societal expectations, racism, sexism, and any other uneven dynamic pasts have contributed to an overall overconsumption of power. How can we overcome this overindulgence and, instead, embrace the voids and still be satisfied?

Is Adele a Poet, Singer, or Both?

Adele’s album 25, was released in 2015. This album was groundbreaking and was the fastest-selling US album ever. Once Adele finished her 25 world tour, she decided to take a break from creating a new album to spend more time with her child who was only three years old at the time. Six years later, Adele just released her new album 30 on November 19, 2021. This album already broke the 2021 sales record in just three days. Similar to many of Adele’s albums which address her love and breakups, this album focuses on her recent divorce. It takes the listener along with her on her journey of motherhood while she reconstructs her life. While many of Adele’s songs are powerful, I find “My Little Love” to be particularly moving.

This song demonstrates the complex feelings involved in a divorce, especially when a child is involved. Adele, as a mother, feels guilty for subjecting her son to the pain of his parents. Parents never want to inflict any pain on their children, but some emotional hardships are unavoidable. During these hard times, the parent-child dynamic is reversed. Adele is in so much pain herself that her child is actually helping her learn to navigate her new world.

Adele wrote,

When you lay on me, can you hear the way my heart breaks?

I wanted you to have everything I never had

I’m so sorry if what I’ve done makes you feel sad

Adele uses imagery to express the immense pain she is in. Her heart is literally broken and not only does she express visual images, but she also adds auditory elements and the sense of touch that listeners can relate to. This helps deepen the listener’s understanding of her pain and guilt. She feels like her son’s pain is her fault and hates that she has subjected him to any pain at all. In a way, she is trying to prove just how badly she feels for what she had done.

I don’t recognise myself in the coldness of the daylight

Adele juxtaposes coldness and daylight. This represents Adeles deeper feelings of isolation. She feels like a new person and is learning to live without her ex-husband. Her surroundings may have not changed but she feels a sense of internal displacement. Her son is one of the few consistent factors in her life, so she relies more heavily on him than ever before.

I’m having a bad day. I’m having a very anxious day

I feel paranoid, I feel very stressed

Um, I have a hangover, which never helps, but

Adele brings us into her own experience as she talks through the thoughts in her head. The short phrases demonstrate the chaos and emotional turmoil that she is experiencing. Her thoughts seem to be spinning and the listeners may be able to relate to times when their own thoughts may have been racing.

Adele in this album takes us on a deeply personal journey and through her words, allows us to experience some of her feelings. I think almost anyone could relate to either these feelings associated with the impact of a divorce on your own life, feelings of motherhood, or simply feelings of general pain and anxiety.

Music as Poetry

What is poetry? Perrine defines poetry as a literary use of language concerned with experience. Poems exist to bring us a “sense and a perception of life” and to “sharpen our contacts with existence” (What is Poetry, 2-3). From this definition, we could say that music is often poetry as well.

Artists often use music to express life experiences in a way that allows us to feel and have the same experience by listening to their music. Eminem’s “Stan”, from the Marshall Mathers LP, is a great example of music as poetry. The song is very dark, taking on the perspective of an obsessive fan who writes to Eminem but receives no response. He begins to get angrier and angrier as he keeps writing and eventually commits a murder-suicide by driving himself and his pregnant girlfriend off of a bridge.

The song is a comment on how detrimental an obsession with a person can be to your mental health. There are allusions to Stan having a romatic interest in Eminem throughout the song, although it is never explicitly stated. These allusions create a paradoxical feeling in the listener, causing them to wonder if Stan is just an obsessive fan or is actually in love with Eminem. Eminem uses contradicting phrases, such as “biggest fan” and “be together”, to create this feeling in the listener.

You gotta call me, man, I’ll be the biggest fan you’ll ever lose

Sincerely yours, Stan – P.S We should be together too

In the chorus, Dido (another one of the songwriters), uses imagery to show how an obsession with a person can result in them being your only source of happiness. He uses the word “Grey” to reference sadness and dullness in a person’s life and then turns around to say that a picture of a specific person negates the “Grey”. This further emphasizes that an obsession over a person and relying on them for happiness negatively impacts a person’s life.

And even if I could it’d all be gray

But your picture on my wall

It remids me that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad

It finally escalates to Stan having uncontrollable anger because of his inability to fulfill his obsession. This is an explicit demonstration of how negatively and obsession can affect someone. To show this negative impact and uncontrollable anger, Eminem shows Stan yelling at Eminem through a letter, personifying his conscious and wishing it will torture and “eat” Eminem for not responding. Here the word “eats” is a metaphor for guilt.

You ruined it now, I hope you can’t sleep and you dream about it

And when you dream I hope you can’t sleep and you scream about it

I hope your conscience eats at you and you can’t breathe whithout me

Poetic Postmodernism

Sincerity Is Scary” is a song by the Manchester-based band, The 1975, on their third studio album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.  This song features an array of poetic devices used to propel the idea of the track. Right off the bat we see alliteration in the title.

The song encaptures a blatant truth of human interaction. Due to the fear of emotional vulnerability, communication problems arise that can interfere with intimacy and connection. Singer and lyrist Matty Healy and The 1975 uses self-awareness and self-reflection to open up about his experiences and struggles of connecting in the postmodern world. For most of the song, Healy seems to be addressing society as a whole, exposing the universal lack of emotion often portrayed in place of true connection. When it comes to the chorus, Healy targets his lyrics toward his lover and the personal struggles he finds in love and connection. An overarching theme depicted in this song and throughout much of Healy’s lyrics across his releases is the idea of postmodernism, a movement characterized by skepticism and irony. See below for my take on postmodernism.

“You lack substance when you say something like, ‘Oh, what a shame’ / It’s just a self-referential way that stops you having to be human”

The 1975 uses alliteration (substance, say, something, shame / having, human) to emphasize their message. Phrases like “Oh, what a shame” are often used ironically or sarcastically. Even when used genuinely, this phrase can sound dismissive of one’s issues. The 1975 claims that when you take sarcasm too far, it takes away true human emotions. After repeating the ‘s’ sound throughout the line, the switch to ‘having to be human’ makes these words stand out reader because these words are pronounced slightly longer than the quick ‘s’ sound.

“And why would you believe you could control how you’re perceived when at your best you’re intermediately versed in your own feelings?”

The 1975 rhymes throughout the lyric (believe, perceive, intermediately, feeling) in an ordered form, giving structure to the song and making it easier for the reader to fully hear and feel the message. A critical part of postmodernism revolves around the sensitivity of one’s image. The 1975 claims that it is difficult to be yourself when you are overly sensitive to others’ opinions, since you cannot truly control them. Only if you focus on your own opinion, a form of self-love, can you be and love yourself.

“You try and mask your pain in the most postmodern way”

 In this line, The 1975 directly links their song to the concepts of postmodernism, using alliteration with pain to add power to the word postmodern.

What is postmodernism, the central theme of this song? – Here is my explanation:

Modernism arose in the early 1900s, when technology and scientific discoveries advanced and religious devotion was seen as less important. Modernism was the idea that humanity was on the right track, following science and finding out the best ways to live. Then came the Vietnam War, the two World Wars, and decades of racism and sexism and horrid acts. This set the stage for postmodernism, the concept that no one really knows what is true or right except with ourselves, leading to self-awareness. However, since one could never know what is right, there was lack of trust with one another and a general disconnection between individuals as people avoided disagreement.

A Trip Away

Music is a universal language understood by people across the world, not only today but since the beginning of time and until the end. Music connects people it is an outlet of emotion that artists use to share with the world a story about their life, much like in poetry. Along with music poetry has been shared since the beginning of time begging the question, are the two really all that different? Poetry is stories told with rhythm and line breaks, with accompanying tone and even sound of the voice. Sound familiar? Much like poetry, lyrical music is a story told orally with accompanying tone, rhythm, and music.

The song “Sailing” by Christopher Cross is an example of lyrical music that fits quite closely into the format of poetry, like most songs it is split into verses that are structurally similar to the stanzas of poetry but more specifically the words and ideas. The main choros of sailing goes as follows “Sailing/Takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be/Just a dream and the wind to carry me/And soon I will be free” Just the choros alone is full of meaning, and can be analyzed as if it were poetry not only is it structurally almost identical but it can also be analyzed the same way. In the choros of sailing the speaker is a man who dreams of leaving where ever it is he is and to a place that seems like a fantasy to him. But unlike a prose passage, the song uses images in the language as well as the tone and musical background to give an even fuller image that would be given if the speaker were to simply say sailing takes me to a better place. Which is the main idea of the pong/poem.

Self-Expression Through Music Poetry

Poetry can be a type of literature that conveys a thought, describes a scene, or tells a story in a concentrated, lyrical arrangement of words. So then what is music? It seems to be poetry sung with instrumental sounds added in the background.

Ritt Momney’s song “Put Your Records On,” the viral cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s hit debut single, is musical poetry. It is a joyful, hopeful song and, if read aloud as a poem, reveals a deeper meaning within the lyrics.

This song is very motivating and almost empowering for everyone. In this song, the singer is reassuring all the girls out there that it’s going to be okay. They do not need to stress too much about how they look. Many girls and boys put too much pressure on themselves to be “perfect”. They try to alter how they look and hide how they truly feel so that they get accepted by the world. But this song is basically saying that it does not matter what the world thinks. What really matters is what you think and how you truly feel about yourself.

Don’t you let those other boys fool you
Gotta love that Afro hairdo

The lyric is a message to the original artist’s, Bailey-Rae’s, younger self to embrace her natural hair. When she was a teenager, the trend was to have straight hair and the singer feared being out of step if she didn’t follow the fashion.

When you gonna realize that you don’t even have to try any longer?
Do what you want to

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song
You go ahead, let your hair down

The hair down is a metaphor to get loose, not to worry, and embrace your inner beauty, which is cool since it’s what many of us do when we are at home and want to relax. We let our hair loose and enjoy the feel of being ourselves.

The Tale of a Wonderful Yesterday

When I first found this song I was watching a movie called “Our Idiot Brother” with Paul Rudd, and in the movie, there was a dog whose name was Willie Nelson, so naturally, the director of the movie had countless Willie Nelson songs whenever the dog showed up. The song “Wonderful Future” by Willie Nelson from the album The Willie Way discusses the life of Willie Nelson, as a person who has lived his life and experienced great things, and because of this he reflects on his life and expresses that his memories are all he has to remember, and because of these memories he has nothing for him in his future. Throughout this song the speaker is Willie himself, talking to someone who he loved (as in a relationship) and he is explaining his pain to them. This takes place possibly in Nelson’s home while reflecting on his life and how he feels now (or while he was thinking about his past). The song first begins by expressing his reflection of his dreams as he (metaphorically looks at them) or as though he is introducing to the audience the beginning of the walkthrough of his past. However, he explains that he is the same person of his past, and that the memories of his past still resonate with him in this moment of reflection. The song is explaining to the listener that holding on to the memories of your past is important but this then leads you to nothing in the future because you have lived the moments that leave you with imprints. More specifically the likes that struck me the most are:

I’m alone in the sweet used-to-be
My past and my present are one and the same

This part of the song (the introduction) tells the listener directly that as he walks through his past and dreams, though they are the same person (or he is the same person he’s always been) he is alone with only those memories to ponder

Yesterday’s kisses still burning
And yesterday’s mem’ries still find me
Scenes from the past keep returning

This part alone allows the reader to think of this song as the reflection of a relationship that ended (with the word “kisses”). Also, the use word “burning” alludes to pain from these never-ending memories that keep returning. It almost seems like he’s trying to escape this pain that he feels but the “scenes” of his past keep haunting him almost

You say there is happiness waiting for me
But I know this is just fantasy
Let me trade one tomorrows for one yesterday
Live in my garden of dreams

The use of the word “you” entails that someone specifically has said this but also that he’s speaking to someone, possibly someone he was in a past relationship with. Furthermore, the last line of this stanza reflects back to his “garden of dreams” similar to how his past keeps returning his dreams come back as well. What’s more interesting though, is when he explains that he would trade a day of his future to be able to live another day in the past, because it illustrates his sadness and desperation to live his past again.

This song, to me, not only tells the story of not being able to escape your emotions from the past but also that having those memories are important in the sense that you’ve lived such a part in your life that you want to go back to it.

Willie Nelson – Wonderful Future Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

1. Is it Poetry? – True/False

When starting this assignment, I was not able to find a song that I knew fit the definition of poetry we were working with. I changed directions and picked a random song I normally listen to–“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles, from the Abbey Road album–and decided to evaluate how poetic it is. What does it say about a certain experience or about life in general? Does it paint enough of a picture of an experience to be considered poetry at all?

The second question was difficult for me since the lyrics of this song are so repetitive:

Here comes the sun, do, do, do / Here comes the sun / And I say, it’s all right”

This is the chorus of the song, and it’s played five times. The sun’s repeating welcome and the assurances that everything’s going to be okay serve to deliver the central subject of the song: the sun has come out after a long, harsh winter and the relief it’s caused is immeasurable. It’s noteworthy that the sun is personified, imbued with the life it gives to the narrator and their peers. The emphasis on the sun coming (in present tense) suggests that it hasn’t fully returned, which is echoed by the other lines: “The smiles returning to the faces” and “I feel that ice is slowly melting” both suggest that the sun’s return is an active process, with cold and unhappiness being a still somewhat present reality in the song’s world. However, the song’s focus isn’t on the present, but the future, which is why the people are so excited to welcome the sun–they know a happy future will come along with it (that’s why they say “it’s all right”).

This feeling of relief the sun provides is emphasized by the line “it seems like years since it’s been here” the repetition of which only emphasizes it more, like the narrator can’t seem to get away from this thought. The song doesn’t seem to be set in a specific time or place besides the end of winter, so the return of the sun and the relief everyone feels because of it have more universal weight than a simple change in weather (it also feels more exalted and magical thanks to the reverent tone of the chorus). The mention of “smiles returning to the faces” creates a sense of community; the sun shines for everyone, so everyone has come together to celebrate, providing a sense of shared happiness–one that even includes the listener since the “little darling” at the start of every non-chorus line addresses them. In this way, I think the theme of this song concerns the experience of shared joy following shared hardship. When things get better, people may come together to celebrate as well as become more optimistic for the future overall (they also may share their own joy with others). The vagueness of the song invites the listener to partake in the relief whether or not their specific experiences match the events of the song because everyone has known hard times and the feelings of happiness and freedom that follow their ending. The goal of the song is to remind people of those happy experiences so they can share in the song’s general cheeriness.

My final answer is a shaky True. Even when trying to analyze it, this song’s lyrics are very straightforward and don’t have much in the way of dimension. However, they do speak to an experience, one that’s specific but applicable to possibly anything the listener wants it to be given the song’s very broad meaning. “Here Comes the Sun” does fulfill one of poetry’s core purposes in that respect.

Red in Beloved

A few chapters into Beloved, I realized that I associated the color red strongly with the novel. I couldn’t tell if it was because the cover is solid red or because of the large number of times red is mentioned in the book. But I knew that, for me, the novel just felt red.

Color in general is important to the book. This is especially clear in the character of Baby Suggs. Because white people (white being the absence of color) took everything from her, she craves color. In the time leading up to her death, she spends the days thinking about color. Both Stamp Paid and Sethe say they hope Baby Suggs never focused on the color red (page 213 for Stamp and 237 for Sethe).

I think that the color red represents the past and trauma. This became clear to me when Beloved opens Paul D’s “tobacco tin” heart (bringing back his memories), and he starts saying “red heart” over and over again (138). Later, when Stamp Paid is thinking about Baby Suggs and the history in 124, he finds a red hair ribbon (213). When these two characters think about the past and trauma, the color red comes into their lives.

The Prolonged Ending

During the final pages of Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, We learn that the two main characters, Saeed and Nadia, end their relationship. Saeed and Nadia met in their home country while there was a relative sense of peace. As their relationship progressed the world around them seemed to deteriorate as militants slowly took over their city. The state continued to worsen until Saeed and Nadia decided to leave the country together leaving behind everything in their old lives including their families. Saeed and Nadia travel the world looking for a place to call home using mysterious portals called “doors”.

Saeed and Nadia’s relationship is more than just any romantic relationship. Their relationship represents their old way of life. When they leave their home country the only thing they have from their old life is each other. After their time in their country ends their relationship begins to end because they grow further apart from each other. The more distant they get from their old home, the more distant they get from each other. This is why Saeed and Nadia’s relationship represents their old lives and it was destined to end once they left their home.

The Happy Sad Ending

Exit West follows the journey of two lovers, Nadia and Saeed, trying to escape their war-torn home country. While they do this, they go through many struggles as a couple. They go from being two heads of the same coin to struggling to be together, to completely going two separate ways. Most people would consider this to be a very said ending. Two people that seemed like they were meant for each other, only to end up leaving each other forever. However, this is ending is the exact opposite. It is in fact, a very happy ending for both of them.

Their relationship was a part of their old life. A life filled with struggles and war. Throughout the entire book, both characters have been trying to leave behind their old lives to peruse something better. That relationship that they had is a part of their old life. Once they can go their separate ways, that is them finally leaving the last part of their old lives to peruse something better in their new home.

Story split in two

The story of Exit West was one of the most interesting that I have read, as it was both an introduction into the genre of realistic fantasy and also that it seemed to so perfectly reflect life in ways that many other books fail to accomplish. In reading the last few pages of the book we learn that Nadia and Saeed drift apart and eventually become their own people and normally this would be considered a sad ending as the two lovers split apart and go separate ways but I think the way the book it written it is all about finding your own way in order to live a life that is best for you. This relates to the even bigger theme around the book which is migration and that is isn’t alway about the story but rather what you do with your life. As Nadia and Saeed separate they become more and more themselves discovering what it is they really want to do and how they want to live their lives, this relates to that topic of migration as while the story of the people is relevant it is less about that and more about the fact that as people they want to start a life where they are that is not home but rather that they are in a new place and would like for that to be a new life. While sometimes migration is about escaping the old it is also about starting new and why would you leave somewhere just to live the same life twice?

Two Stories in One

While reading the story, it came to my attention that in the text, Hamid develops two stories at the same time. He builds the story of immigrants’ journey from their old country to new, as well as a love story between two people that were seemingly perfect for each other. From the beginning, the reader follows the story of people trying to escape from their destroyed native land, while having to make difficult choices like leaving behind family. Saeed has to leave his family behind, and pursue a place that is best for him and his values. He and Nadia encounter multiple different living situations after leaving home. They keep searching until they find a place where they are comfortable. These are the usual events of a classic immigrant story.

In addition, from the beginning of the story, Hamid builds the relationship between Nadia and Saeed, to form a love story that seems to be like every other. The two stay with each other through multiple obstacles, while exploring themselves to find what they really want from life. However, this generic love story takes an unexpected turn when Nadia and Saeed begin to grow apart. Even after everything they had been through, the decided it was best to go their separate ways since they were looking for different things in a relationship. This turn transformed a generic love story into an intriguing and unfamiliar one.

The fact that Hamid was able to merge these two great stories into one, shows just how skilled he is in writing. This, combined with his unorthodox sentence style, keeps the reader engaged throughout the book. It also exemplifies the intricacies of being an immigrant, such as how much their life changes in such a short period of time.