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

2 thoughts on “Music as Poetry

  1. Nicholas P.

    I love this take on the song Stan! I agree with the many poetic elements that Eminem uses to create a paradoxical image through two contrasting words as you explained. I also liked how you noted that the word “eats” to illustrate guilt, because not only did I think of it in that way but I also thought the word illustrates the anger and the fury behind it, especially the way it’s said in the song. Great job!



    The song Stan has been one of my favorites not just from Eminem but in general as well for quite some time now, I just never get tired of Eminem’s storytelling in this song, it amazes me every time. Just how he is able to get into the head of this crazy person and depict such an accurate description and lifestyle of an overly obsessive fan. In Stan’s last verse, you can hear the pure anger and hate he has for Em for not responding which is really incredible. I like that you picked up on how obsession can affect one’s mental health, and the two specific lines Eminem uses to show that Stan is more than a crazy fan, he is as you said, in love with Eminem.


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