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.

3 thoughts on “Whirl on Silver Wheels

  1. TATE S.

    I appreciate your definition of poetry at the inception of your argument, which aided me in understanding your line of reasoning. I would be interested to here your thoughts on more of the verses, and perhaps to get more reinforcement of the tone. The imagery you describe is powerful, and I am inspired to listen to this song. (It’s spelled ‘Perrine’)


  2. Amelia R.

    I like how you described poetry using Perrine’s definition. I think it helped put the song in the context of poetry. I do not know if I have ever listened to this song but I am compelled to listen based on your argument. I like how you described the imagery and explain how it adds to the meaning as well as pointed out the unique word choice and its deeper meaning.


  3. Michael D.

    I liked your first paragraph, I think it was a necessary addition to the post to give some justification for poetry. I wish you included more parts of the song though! Also, Larry’s name is spelled Perrine 🙂


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