Cardigan

Most, if not all, of Taylor Swift’s music, is poetry. The most popular song on her Folklore album, Cardigan, is just one great example of how her lyrics incorporate poetic devices to weave a story with a deeper meaning.

Cardigan is a song about first love and first heartbreak. The passion and excitement of first love are enthralling. The innocence and the bond between the two young lovers lead to heartbreak as their relationship ended and trust was lost. This song comes from the perspective of a heartbroken young girl, who feels her first love was truly a heartbreak, although she is aware that “when you are young they assume you know nothing.”

First, Swift uses imagery to symbolize the innocence of young love.

I knew you

Dancin’ in your Levi’s

Drunk under a streetlight, I

I knew you

Hand under my sweatshirt

Baby, kiss it better

The youthful scene described here gives a vivid image of the fun, innocent love the two share. It also depicts the nature of their relationship: exciting, intimate, candid. The speaker knows her lover; she remembers every minute of their relationship. This scene perpetuates the idea that she was truly in love with him despite her age because after all these years she still looks back fondly at their memories and is able to recall the specific moments that made her fall for him.

As the song moves chronologically through the relationship, similies are used to describe the depth of emotion of the speaker caused by the betrayal of her lover.

I knew you

Leavin’ like a father

Running like water

She chooses to describe her lover as “leaving like a father,” arguably the most tragic betrayal imaginable, in order to both convey the intense emotion she felt towards him, and to draw a connection between her lover and her father, who also left. The line serves both to describe the level of heartbreak he caused her and to compare her lover to her own father, implying that from the beginning she was worried about the relationship ending in the manner it did, and has consequently lost her trust in men completely.

Taylor ends the song using metaphors to describe the impact the relationship had on her psyche.

I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs

The smell of smoke would hang around this long

‘Cause I knew everything when I was young

In this line, Taylor compares the lingering memory of her lover to the smell of smoke. The vivid memories that haunt her burning relationship have hung around, she still wonders what could have been if things were different. This line reveals that all along Taylor knew the outcome of her relationship would be torture, but was unable to remove herself from it.

This song represents the paradox of young love. Adults judge the naivety of teen romances, but this song argues that young people are very much aware of the pain these short-lived relationships will cause. Despite the struggles, this song defends young love as a necessary experience that teaches those in them more about themselves and helps create expectations and dealbreakers for a forever partner.

This entire song is filled with metaphors, similes, imagery, personification, and so many more poetic devices. The reason I love this song is that it achieves a highly personal, deeply relatable meaning using beautiful poetic phrases. The way she writes her music makes listening to it an experience, you have to pay attention to understand the real meaning behind it. I highly suggest everyone listen to not just “Cardigan,” but the entirety of Taylor Swift’s discography because much of her music is written in a similar manner.

A Bittersweet Love

In “A Case of You” from Joni Mitchell’s album Blue, Mitchell is explaining to her ex romantic partner that no matter what happens in their relationship, no matter how intoxicating he can be or how unhappy he makes her, she can still separate herself from him and their relationship and whatever happens she can still come out of it okay and standing on her own two feet. 

This is best demonstrated in the chorus;

Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine

You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling 

Still I’d be on my feet

When describing him as “in my blood like holy wine”, she’s saying that he’s a part of her, he’s in her blood. Relating him to wine gives the sense that he can be almost intoxicating. But then she goes on to say how she could drink a case of him, continuing the simile of him being holy wine, and she’d still be standing on her feet. She knows that she won’t get swept away by him, he doesn’t have that much of an effect on her. While he’s a part of her, she can still separate herself from their relationship and be able to stand on her own if she needs to. Additionally, she describes him as both bitter and sweet. This implies that she knows that this love could be bad for her but she thinks it’s worth it. She can justify being with him because she knows if anything did happen she would be okay. 

She again shows her confidence in her ability to survive any possible conflict in the relationship in a conversation she has with his mother.

I met a woman

She had a mouth like yours

She knew your life

She knew your devils and your deeds

And she said

“Go to him, stay with him if you can

But be prepared to bleed”

This conversation between her and his mother isn’t exactly painting him in the best light. She mentions his devils and deeds and his mother warns her that she should be prepared to be hurt. These lines are immediately followed by another version of the chorus where she maintains, even after this warning, that she’ll be okay without him if she needs to be. The warning from his mother of “be prepared to bleed” clearly means she should be prepared to be hurt. However, when it’s followed with “you are in my blood” it seems to suggest that if something did happen and he did hurt her she could bleed him out and get him out of her system. Throughout the song-poem, she continues to express how she doesn’t think he can really hurt her because he doesn’t have that much of an effect on her. She again emphasizes this in these lines by saying that if something did happen she could get him out of her system and get over it.

What lies beyond the illusion of life

Disguised in recognizable electric guitar riffs, a distinctive organ solo, and catchy rock enthusiasm, Kansas’s hit 1970s rock song “Carry on Wayward Son”, written by band member Kerry Livgren and included in the album Leftoverture, is, at its core, a philosophical exploration of the purpose of life.  

Following the first chorus and instrumental riff, the narrator begins the second stanza by describing their life as full of “noise and confusion”.  They wish to escape this chaos, to “get a glimpse beyond this illusion” — which is to say, they wish to find a higher purpose to a life of pain.  Yet, they fail in their attempts to discover this higher purpose to life, revealed through an allusion to Greek mythology — specifically, the myth of the inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus.  In this myth, Daedalus fashions two pairs of wax wings to allow himself and his son to escape imprisonment; however, Icarus becomes overconfident and ignores the warnings of his father, deciding to fly higher and higher until the sun melts his wings and he falls to his death.  In alluding to this myth, it seems that Livgren implies that finding a higher purpose in life is not a simple act of will — rather, it requires anyone seeking this higher purpose to remain grounded in reality.  But, this allusion does not hint at what Livgren believes to be the higher purpose of life, only how to achieve it.  The former is the job of the chorus:

Carry on, my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Spoken to the narrator by “the voices”, the chorus is the key to understanding what Livgren implies is the higher purpose of life.  The first step in understanding the meaning of the chorus is deducing what, exactly, the narrator must be “done” with in order to have peace.  The aforementioned second stanza describes the narrator as attempting and failing to escape a chaotic life of “noise and confusion”, so we can make the relatively safe assumption that “the voices” are telling the narrator that there will be peace when he is “done” with these vain attempts to escape chaos — that is to say, “the voices” promise peace when the search for the meaning in life is abandoned, and the chaos is accepted as a part of life.  Though it seems counterintuitive at first, this philosophy is notably reminiscent of that of Meursault in The Stranger — life is unchangeable and must be accepted for what it is, without any higher purpose at all.

In the following stanza, the narrator describes themself as “Masquerading as a man with a reason” — which is to say, they are portraying themself as someone they are not, implying that after hearing the advice of “the voices”, they have accepted life as not having reason or a higher meaning, but are just not willing to publicly show this.  This hesitancy to reveal their belief is entirely understandable — after all, one of the most important features of The Stranger is the constant societal dismay towards Meursault’s nonemotional and existential mannerisms.  In order to avoid this societal dismay, the narrator goes to long lengths to hide his existentialist beliefs, even setting out in search of “winds of fortune” — that is, material profit and benefit — in order to appear to broader society as holding the belief that there is actually a purpose of life: to profit materially, a widely-shared belief in modern capitalist societies, allowing the narrator to blend in well and avoid the consternation of society.

But in the eighth stanza, we run into an issue with this entire assumption that “the voices” are offering the narrator an existentialist perspective on life.  “The voices” tell the narrator that his life is “no longer empty”, implying that he has found a purpose in life, and the following line tells the narrator that “surely heaven waits for you”, clearly establishing that “the voices” were telling the narrator from the beginning that a higher purpose of life does, in fact, exist: religion and reaching the afterlife.

But how is this reconcilable with all of the evidence that I used to argue that “the voices” were existentialist?

Well, one of the beauties of poetry is that it is open to interpretation. The interpretation that “the voices” were existentialist is entirely valid — it just likely is not the songwriter’s intended interpretation.

Going back to the chorus, in order to explain that “the voices” were existentialist, I assumed that the chorus was telling the narrator that there will be peace when he is “done” with his vain attempts to escape chaos.  But another, equally valid interpretation is that the chorus was telling the narrator that there will be peace when he is “done” living — that after a life of chaos comes an eternal afterlife of peace.  Under this interpretation, the narrator is not hiding his existentialism when he is “Masquerading as a man with a reason” or plotting “a course for winds of fortune”; instead, he seems to be resisting the advice of “the voices” to continue living life with the purpose of reaching an afterlife, and instead is only pretending to live a religious life as he continues to seek profit from material fortune — at least, until “the voices” return and tell the narrator again to trade the material for the spiritual.  And of course, the myth of Icarus teaches us that to ignore the advice of authority would be a dangerous decision.

I’d love to know — what do you all think?  Do you think Livgren intended to teach the audience that religion and reaching afterlife is the ultimate purpose of life, or that there is no ultimate purpose of life at all?  Or do you have a totally different idea of the purpose of life that Livgren and Kansas promote in “Carry On Wayward Son”?

DOOMSDAY

Daniel Dumile, better known by his stage persona, MF DOOM, is an American rapper/producer who rose ton popularity in the late 1990’s. MF DOOM is a masked super villain type character set on taking over the world of rap with his intricate rhyme schemes and dastardly deeds. Of course, Dumile is not actually a super villain, but rather uses MF DOOM as a speaker for his songs.

In the song “Doomsday” from his first studio album, Operation: Doomsday, MF DOOM demonstrates why he is the greatest super villain.

Bound to go three-plat

Came to destroy rap

It’s a intricate plot of a B-Boy strapped

In this line, “three-plat” refers to his record going triple platinum, meaning that it will sell over 3 million copies. DOOM coming to “destroy rap” means that he is going to take over the industry and destroy all the competition in his way. He is the “B-Boy”, which is simply a person associated with hip-hop culture, and going three-plat and destroying rap are part of his intricate scheme.

Rappers need to fall of just to save me the trouble, yo

Watch your own back came in and go out alone, black

Stay in the zone–turn H20 to Cognac

The first line here is almost like a threat to other rappers, saying that they should give up so he won’t have to go through the trouble of making them give up. The next line alludes to the idea that MF DOOM does everything alone, and possibly why he wants to be alone at the top of the rap scene. The first part of the last line, telling you to stay in the zone, connects back to the last two lines and essentially says just focus on yourself. The second part of the last line is MF DOOM comparing himself to Jesus! He is turning H20 (water) into cognac which is a type of wine. DOOM is somewhat of an egomaniac and constantly praising himself and his own work.

What the Devil? He’s on another level

It’s a word! No, a name! MF – the Super Villain!

The last two lines of the song are supposed to represent a 3rd-person point of view, as if someone is looking at MF DOOM and claiming that he is on another level. It is very fitting to use the phrase, “What the Devil?” because DOOM is an evil villain. The last line is still in a 3rd-person point of view and supposed to be a play on the the Superman trope, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman!” It is a great way to end the song as it provides a great contrast from super hero to super villain.

Doomsday, MF DOOM’s magnum opus, is nothing short of an exalting poetic experience. Also, remember – All caps when you spell the man’s name!

Does Music Equal Poetry?

In the song “betty” by Taylor Swift from her album folklore, it is very evident that there are strong poetic pieces that allow the listener to understand the true feeling of the song. The song is from a boy’s point of view and is explaining the aftermath of what seems to have been an argument, or something more, with a girl he has feelings for. Throughout the song, the thing he did never becomes clarified but it was enough for the girl to cut ties from him, yet the boy still has strong feelings for her. He tries time and time again to fix what he ruined but is it too late and apologizing isn’t enough.

“You heard the rumors from Inez

You can’t believe a word she says

Most times, but this time it was true”

This line covneys the experience from where the whole issue started and is contradictory. The boy is saying to not listen to “Inez” because she lies but this one time she was telling the truth. The boy wants the girl he liked to to believe him and not the “rumors” going around even though they are true. The line also shows that he is trying to convince himself that he didn’t do the bad thing that made the girl leave him, but deep he knows it’s what he deserved and there’s nothing he can do about it.

“But if I just showed up at your party

Would you have me? Would you want me?”

This line foreshadows a choice that is overtaking the narrator and he is fighting with whether he should do it or not in his head. Throughout the song he goes back and forth with himself and tries to decide if it is worth the risk.

In the end the the boy realizes the love he has for this girl over and over again. Throughout the entire song he repeats how much he misses her and how he is only seventeen which means he has flawed thinking, which is why he cannot fix his relationship with this girl and will have to live on wondering what they could’ve had if he didn’t do what he did to her.

A Sweet Addiction

I have never been much of a lyrics person, mostly infatuated by the sounds and rhythms of my favorite artists. However, through this assignment I was able to delve deep into the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, “Cherry Wine” by Hozier. These poetic lyrics shed some light on domestic abuse in a relationship where the man is the victim and woman is the abuser. Hozier wanted the song to show specifically this cycle of justification that many domestic abusive situations perpetuate, a cycle cited by many people as a way for the abused to be controlled and guilt to be shifted from abuser to victim.

This is best shown in the related chorus;

“The way she tells me I’m hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.”

Throughout the whole poem the speaker, the man being abused, constantly accompanies an abusive moment to a line that justifies it. The physical abuse is demonstrated directly through the second line, an “open hand” representing a slap and a “closed fist” representing a punch. However, line three defends this pain by using blood and cherry wine as similes. Cherry wine, an alcoholic beverage, is toxic but addictive and sweet. Similarly this relationship is definitely toxic but the speaker can not get out of it nor does he really want to. Also, these lines being the chorus and repeated multiple times throughout the lyrics emphasizes this “justification” cycle mentioned earlier.

“But I want it
It’s a crime
That she’s not around most of the time.”

The word “crime” is used as a multidimensional word in this stanza. In one way the crime could be the fact that he is in an abusive household. Maybe the fact that he still wants her despite all the pain she is/was causing him. Or maybe it’s a crime that she is not around enough even with his love. Whichever meaning one decides to take, the importance is that the speaker does understand that he is in an abusive relationship yet he is so emotionally attached to this woman (through no fault of his own) that he can’t get out.

Hozier, through this poetic song, brilliantly gives readers a deep sense of the physical and psychological terrors of domestic abuse.

Freedom Flies By

Simon & Garfunkel were a successful folk-rock duo back in the 1960s who had many popular singles and albums. Their song “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” is the second song on their final studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water, which was released in January 1970. Paul Simon originally heard this song in Paris when the Peruvian group Los Incas performed it and he could include it in his album with English lyrics. The words “El Condor Pasa” translates to “the condor goes by,” which hints to the song’s focus on freedom and control.

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail

Yes I would

If I could

I surely would

In the first verse of the song, they contrast a sparrow and a snail. A sparrow is free to spend its time on both group and in the sky, having no limit on where they can travel. Additionally, a sparrow is a swiftly moving predator that does not have worry about being hunted. Meanwhile, a snail is bound to living on the ground and is an animal of prey, constantly fearing for its life. It is important to note that sparrows eat snails, which adds to the argument that the speaker wants power and to be able to control their own life. This comparison emphasizes the speaker’s wish to live without fear and be able to take risks.

Away, I’d rather sail away

Like a swan that’s here and gone

A man gets tied up to the ground

He gives the world

The saddest sound

The saddest sound

Again, the song emphasizes the speaker’s wish to not be held back from freedom. The simile in the line “Away, I’d rather sail/ Like a swan that’s here and gone” articulates that the speaker wants to be free to go on their own adventures and like a swan, not be bound to one place. A swan is the image of total freedom; they can be in one place or moment and experience it and then move on to the next with no restrictions. The next lines focus on the reality of world. There is a much higher probability that a person will be stuck in one place and sucked into the painful monotony of life. As nice as it is to think about achieving true freedom, it is very unlikely.

I’d rather be a forest than a street

I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet

The imagery of nature in both of these lines highlights the speaker’s wish to retreat from the society humans have constructed. The speak would rather be a forest, something that grows and expresses itself freely, than a street, which is trampled on daily by people. Additionally, in order for streets to be created, they had to destroy some forest and change nature. This point in strengthened by the speaker’s wish to feel earth on their feet. This line shows how the speaker wants to reconnect with a more simple time or place where there people had less responsibilities and were free to truly have full control over their lives.

Lastly, the repetition of the line “If I could” throughout this song adds a bit of reality to the tone. This whole song has a very wishful and dreamy tone to it. However, the repetition of this line makes the audience realize that all of the “I’d rather’s” are just hopes and not true. It is this break into reality that brings the audience a sense of sadness as they realize that the speaker is just reflecting on their life and the lack of freedom and control that they actually have.

Although this song does not contain many lyrics, I think that each line contains endless possibilities of interpretations. In fact, I think this speaks to how well this song conveys a deeper meaning with what may be seen as simple lyrics.

Poetic Techniques in “Ghost Town”

In the song “Ghost Town” in the album titled Ye by Kanye West, there is concrete evidence of poetic elements that add to the song’s message and impact on the listener. The main idea that the song revolves around is letting go, and getting away from the pain that life brings. The song shifts from the hopes in the future to wanting to get out of the pain of life and leave it behind. A feeling of numbness is present here, and it is clear the speaker is dealing with some issues that he wants to get out of.

One main poetic element that Kanye uses in “Ghost Town” is the repetition of the lyrics “some day,” especially near the beginning of the poem. This repetition adds to the song by emphasizing the way the speaker is looking towards the future with hope, and feels that the future holds an escape from the hardships of the present.

Another poetic element that Kanye incorporates in this song is the line “I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed.” This line serves as a metaphor for the speaker simply feeling pain just to feel something. While the speaker did not actually put his hand on a stove, this line represents doing something just to feel vulnerable or hurt. This could be in reference to drug use or to intentionally making poor choices and accepting the punishment.

Furthermore, the line “Some day I wanna lay down, like God did, on Sunday” utilizes an allusion to religion and to the bible, and the actions of God. This adds to the song by emphasizing the passion for which the speaker believes that the future will be different from today. This reference to God also emphasizes the good intentions that the speaker has in “laying down.”

Dangers of Romance

In her single, “Frankenstein” , Claire Rosinkranz exposes the unrealistic idealizations of romantic partners. Claire highlights the absurdity of this standard through her extended metaphor of “building” a perfect boyfriend and bringing him to life along with imagery, repetition, and metaphorical language.

Claire first explains,

I been searching, don’t think it’s out there
Talks for hours, walks in with flowers
Dirty converse, 6’2 and brown hair
Every little thing that I want

(lines 6-7 Pre-Chorus)

Claire’s description of this boy begins with the imagery of him walking in with flowers to specific details about his appearance, like the exact height of “6’2”. This literal blue-print of her ideal boyfriend justifies her first line of the verse hinting at not being able to find the one for her. After these description, Claire repeats, “Every little things that I want” throughout her verses to admit that this boy fits her wants perfectly. However, when Claire sings,

Guess I gotta build my Frankenstein
Draw the picture, color all the lines
When it’s right, I’ll take a test drive
Every little thing that I want

she employs the word Frankenstein for the first time. Listeners correspondingly understand that this boy was magically created and brought to life, dismantling their picture of a “perfect” lover. Claire compares creating an ideal image of a boy to drawing him and creating a Zombie. This metaphor exposes the human desire to shape a person to be an idealization, or exactly what one wants, instead of loving their flaws and who they truly are. Yes, this boy is initially seen as “perfect”, but he is also not human.

Finally, Claire strengthens her perspective when explaining, “He’s my daydream, never a nightmare”(line 20). While initially this line can be interpreted as a way of describing how perfect he is, this metaphor further hints at the irrationality of this idealization. Similar to the comparison of the made up monster Frankenstein, by comparing him to a “day-dream”, she is implying that this version of him is merely a fantasy.

In essence, without dismissing the idea of having standards, Claire reveals romantic idealization strip people of their humanity and flaws are what makes humans lovable and well…human.

Happy

The song “Happy” by Pharell is almost too easy of a choice when it comes to songs that are like poetry. Pharell Williams put together a masterpiece with his song. In this feel-good radio hit anthem, Pharell cheers his listeners to embrace happiness in all ways shape and form when faced with problems. The music video for “Happy” was nominated for Best Male Video and Video of the Year at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. It also won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. Alongside its musical perfection, it also is very poetic in the way it is able to sneak in many poetic devices in its lyrics.  The first example of this is:

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

(Because I’m happy)

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Pharell

Pharell starts off hot with an uplifting simile. There is a simile in ‘clap along if you feel like a room without a roof’. The person is compared to a room without a roof. In the song, you can feel Pharrell’s energy when he is asking if you are very happy. Pharell uses the simile to make something boring like clapping sounds uplifting and joyful. Along with the simile it also uses rhyme with the words roof and truth giving it that song vibe. It just makes you wanna get up, dance and clap. 

Throughout the song Pharell is also able to use Personification, attaching human qualities to nonhuman things, excellently. One example being:

Here come bad news, talking this and that (Yeah!)

Pharell

In this line, Pharell is able to articulate that there is a lot of bad news going around. He used personification to make it seem like the bad news was actually saying something as if it were a real person. The use of personification in the song adds more depth and makes the song more interesting, just like how poems are deeper than just the words on the page.

Finally, the last highlighted poetic device is how he is able to implicate extended metaphors throughout his hit song.

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space

With the air, like I don’t care, baby, by the way

These lyrics use a metaphor because it’s comparing two unlike things, a person and a hot air balloon, without using connecting words. As Pharell isn’t really in a hot air balloon the metaphor just shows that he is really Happy. As the overall theme of the song is about joy and happiness a lot of the lyrics, in connection with the one above, are extended phrases or metaphors for happiness itself. In the whole song the repetition of ‘because I’m happy’ is quite clear to stress on the word and metaphor for happiness.

Pharell

To add to all of that, what isn’t more poetic about a song written and released as the first and only single for the soundtrack of the film Despicable Me 2 (2013).

“Let Her Go”, By Passenger

The song “Let Her Go“, by Passenger, All the Little Lights, is an extremely popular song as the nature of the song describes a memory that many people can relate to. At the song’s core, it emphasizes how waiting too long to tell someone else how you feel may be too late and that person may have moved on. Nearly every line has tones of regret stricken through it especially in the lines

Well, you see her when you fall asleep
But never to touch and never to keep
‘Cause you loved her too much, and you dived too deep

This set of lines also has a rhyme scheme at the end of each line indicating the congruent thoughts and feelings. Rhyme schemes are also present in every other verse but very slightly. In this quote, however, the metaphor of “[diving] too deep” serves on levels because a person can dive, or fall, into sleep just as a person could dive into love.

But you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go

The chorus of the song makes many comparisons between what was and what is, allowing the listener to contemplate what they regret seeing, feeling, or hearing. The chorus also has a rhyme scheme which is almost all the same ending sound except for “home” which makes the word stick out. The listener is forced to confront first the definition of “home” and then what this might mean to the listener personally, simply enhancing the theme of seizing your opportunity. All in all, I think the song is beautiful and forces reality to emerge from often a blissful love story or from a tragic one.

Heaven’s Not Too Far Away

Song Lyrics: https://genius.com/We-three-heavens-not-too-far-lyrics

Writing song lyrics and writing poetry have similar writing techniques as both forms of art attempt to place the reader in different feet than their own and transport the readers/listeners into an alternate reality. We Three, a sibling band, experienced the tragic loss of losing their mother to cancer, but it inspired them to write a song from her perspective, on what they thought went through her mind as she stared death in the face. They titled this song “Heavens Not Too Far Away”, which already shows the listener the central theme of the song and by the usage of diction in the opening stanza sets the whole message of the song.

… Honey, I thought you should know
That I’m in a hurry
I’ve got to move up north
But it’s just temporary
When I look at you I see your beauty
Now my baby boy he’s gonna lose me

This opening stanza also allows the listener to see that this song is in the perspective of not the songwriters themselves, as they refer to themselves in the third person, but their mother. It also establishes that maybe the mom believes that she isn’t leaving her kids, spiritually, because she was their mother, a figure that is supposed to support her kids for their full life. It is implied that her life was cut too short, and this stanza also establishes maybe what the songwriters/ her kids wanted to believe because the dark reality that their mother is gone from the physical world is too sad to bear. This also shows that this song has a central message but also leaves room for some interpretation for the listeners. The repetition of the line “it’s just temporary” located in the first and very last line of the song, places emphasis on the speaker believing there is something past death, and she will one day see her kids again. However, it uses the word it’s because although it seems like the logical thing it’s would be referring to is leaving her kids, it also allows the reader to interpret what it’s could mean. The word it’s could be analyzed as the pain that the kids, the pain the mom feels, or the burden of taking care of one’s younger siblings.

The chorus of this song goes like

But Heaven’s not too far away

I know someday you’ll vist

And I didn’t think it’d go this way

Can I please have one more minute

The chorus has a meter of 7 syllables per line, which is more crucial in a song than a poem as it gives the song more fluency to the words so it flows smoothly with the instrumentals. Although a poem has no instrumentals to it, there still needs to be a continuous flow so the experience the poem attempts to paint is smooth and not filled with awkward breaks between lines or stanzas. This song takes that into consideration with the chorus especially since this is the most remembered verse and its given meter is what makes it sounds so good and rememberable.

The song itś self doesn’t use a lot of poetic devices but according to Perrine’s Sounds and Sense first chapter “What is Poetry” defines poetry as something that creates “significant new experiences” as it “broadens” and “deepens” the reader’s knowledge in this world. This song is not only personal for the writers but it also lets listeners in on a viewpoint, that is mostly unheard of in the public eye. As well as, creates empathy for kids who lost their parents to a disease or accident at a relatively young age. This song also targets the audience of kids who have lost their parents because this song could be looked at as a type of message to a kid who lost a parent. A message that maybe wasn’t always told to these kids, so they take comfort in this song. This is in some ways juxtaposes Perrine’s definition that poetry has to take you to a new place, as this song could take people back in time if they experienced the loss of a parent. Before or after, the present, the song brings its audience members to a time that isn’t the present and most times different from the world they are in.

The Script: Poetry behind their words

Breakeven a song by The Script, off the album “The Script” was made in 2008. It’s obvious this song is about a breakout but the deeper you look in the lyrics, you begin to see how much this girl meant to him and how it’s harder to move on then he would of imagined. The lyrics start off with

“I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing, Just prayin’ to a God that I don’t believe in”

This is him telling that this breakup is so hard hitting on him that it’s like he’s a dead man walking, he is alive but he doesn’t feel alive in himself. He’s praying to a god he doesn’t believe in because he is so lost in the world right now and doesn’t know what to do and he’s hoping this god will lead him on the right path to get his life back together.

“Her best days will be some of my worst
She finally met a man that’s gonna put her first
While I’m wide awake she’s no trouble sleeping”

He goes on to talk about how she was able to find a new man and move on with her life while he is still moping about the breakup. He’s thinking about how he messed up and didn’t put her first when he should of, and now she has found a man who puts her first and treats her right. Now she is happy with her life with her new man, while he is staying up late and thinking about all the wrong he did in the relationship leading up to the breakup.

“Cause she’s moved on while I’m still grieving
And when a heart breaks no it don’t break even”

So know after the horrible breakup he has experienced, he realizes that it hasn’t affected her. So he is saying how a heart doesn’t break even because his heart has been shattered from this breakup while she has moved on fast and doesn’t even think about him, So he heart is full with this new man while he can’t get over the breakup.

Paranoid Neighbor

What’s He Building? by Tom Waits on his album Mule Variations exemplifies the irrationality of humans and the irony and hipcorisy of human curiosity and anxiety. With effectively no melodic portions and a complete lack of any harmony, I’m not sure I would even call this music, but it serves my purpose as it’s one of the only works of music that I listen to that isn’t instrumental, or has sappy mid-century jazz lyrics, or has completely indecipherably esoteric lyrics. The “song” is a set of stanzas consisting of a man speculating on the doings of his neighbor. The neighbor is introduced as a mysterious character with unknown motives, what really is he building in there?

What’s he building in there?

With that hook light on the stairs What’s he building in there?

I’ll tell you one thing

He’s not building a playhouse for the children

What’s he building in there?

Tom Waits builds towards the final revelation throughout the entire piece, primarily using imagery. But not a sort of emotional or moving imagery. A kind of grim, familiarly dingy imagery. The imagery focusses on the less than pleasant, but not unpleasant. The underside of a sink, a bottle of formaldehyde, a dying lawn, and a tire swing. These innocuous objects become profound because they are mentioned. Their very mundane nature is precisely what gives them power when they are mentioned. The narrator’s fixation on the mundaneness of the whole scenario is what gives it significance, and what makes on question what is he building in there?

And I keep seeing the blue light of a

T.V. show

He has a router and a table saw

In addition to Waits’ usage of mundane imagery to further the intrigue of the scenario, repetition is liberally used to ground us, to bring us back to the question of “what is he building in there?” This repetition keeps one focussed on the mystery and the unknown. Every now and again it is eerily interjected into the words after a seemingly pointless and harmless piece of information is received.

I heard he has an ex-wife
In some place called Mayors Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia
But what is he building in there?
What the hell is building in there?

And finally, by the end of the song, the narrator remarks that

What’s he building in there? We have a right to know…

Now ask yourself, “what do we know about this mysterious neighbor?” Come to think of it, quite a bit actually, we actually know a good bit about his life. This mysterious character is not so mysterious at all. This suspicious man across the street with his alterior motives is doing nothing abnormal. The constant reference to innocuous and simple daily objects serves to show us that this neighbor, is in fact, not doing anything abnormal or unwonted by any means. But what do we know of the narrator? This narrator who is so obsessed with his nieghbor and his doings? By the end the real enigma is the narrator. The neighbor is not the one we should be concerned about. After all, the neighbor is not the one stalking his nieghbor. While this song may not be exceptionally deep or emotional, I believe that through the mundane diction, the repetition, and the final revelation, Waits reveals several truths about human nature. First, information can always be skewed by how it is presented. The first couple of times that I listened to this “song”, I truthfully saw the narrator as a concerned citizen. The power of the context in which information is presented is everything. The mysterious background noises, the low, gruff, voice. And yet, by simply reading out the lyrics, we see that clearly the narrator is the one with a loose scew, not the neighbor. In addition to this, I believe that our inability to see our own hypocrisy is also a primary theme of this work. The narrator can not see that he is the very embodiment of that which criticizes. The whole “song” primarily serves to highlight the anxious and pernicious shortcomings of humans by presenting this facts in an absurd but telling manner.

It Ain’t No Use (debating whether or not this is a poem)

The seventh song on Bob Dylan’s 1963 album “The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan” is an ode to lovers gone by. Titled Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, the song tells the story of the ending of a long relationship between the narrator and an unnamed woman and their searches for a life outside of each other’s company. The narrator expresses his wishes for them to continue on with their lives, claiming that dwelling on their past can do them no good, and any attempt to fix the kinks in their relationship is simply a waste of energy.

Dylan conveys the couple’s past quarrels through the narrator’s reminiscing. The narrator seems to feel some kind of apathy toward his former lover, repeating the same phrase throughout the song.

It ain’t no use

Despite the repetition, the narrator changes the meat of each line to gradually convey the reasons behind the couple’s downfall. One instance of this is in the song’s second verse.

It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe

That light I never knowed

An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe

I’m on the dark side of the road

Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say

To try and make me change my mind and stay

We never did too much talkin’ anyway

So don’t think twice, it’s all right

Dylan uses the woman’s light as a metaphor for their lack of communication as the narrator explains that trying to communicate now would make no difference. She never shared her thoughts with him or allowed him to understand her, leaving him not knowing her light. He remains on a dark path without her light and expresses a wish that she would ask him to stay, but remembers how poorly they communicated and decides they would be better off apart.

Dylan fills the narrator’s final words to his former lover with a sense of bitterness; the diction calmly calls her out for wronging him but also shows forgiveness that reflects the inner growth the narrator has undergone because of their relationship. Knowing that neither one of them is solely to blame, he consistently takes time to reassure her that their parting of ways should not cause any feelings of guilt or unhappiness. Not being right for someone does not make you wrong.

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe

Where I’m bound, I can’t tell

But goodbye’s too good a word, gal

So I’ll just say fare thee well

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind

You could have done better but I don’t mind

You just kinda wasted my precious time

But don’t think twice, it’s all right

In a song of only 3 minutes and 41 seconds, Dylan manages to effortlessly build the story of two complicated individuals finding themselves at the end of their time together. The listener can absorb the simplistic beauty of their story, one that may have been rather mundane if it had been written by anyone else, and begin to see themselves in the character’s light. Forgiving themselves, absolving themselves of guilt, the two of them part ways cordially, returning their status to strangers. They move on and resume their lives without the weight of their past keeping them from further growth.

In 2016, Bob Dylan received a Nobel Prize in Literature for his revolutionary contributions to storytelling in American music.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

On Jan. 30 1970, British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of Irish Catholics protesting internment without trial of suspected Irish Republican Army members. 26 people were shot, all of them unarmed. Of the 26 shot, 14 died. Many victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers, some were shot while trying to help the wounded.

13 years later, U2, a four-man band from Dublin, released “Sunday Bloody Sunday” a condemnation of widespread violence in Northern Ireland.

U2 painted scenes of violence through their lyrics.

Broken bottles under children’s feet

Bodies strewn across the dead end street

U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday

References to the use of Molotov cocktails in streets where children play and corpses backed up into a corner encapsulate the decades of violence in Northern Ireland which claimed more than 3,000 lives. Children are supposed to be innocent and not caught in the middle of murder and violence from adults. By describing the conflict’s impact on children, U2 shows the consequences to the most innocent.

The events of Bloody Sunday would become a rallying cry for Irish nationalist groups, however, the song was not a rallying cry for either side of the conflict. 

But I won’t heed the battle call

It puts my back up

Puts my back up against the wall

U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday

“This is not a Rebel song” Bono, the lead singer of the band said before a live performance of the song. Instead, the song was a condemnation of the unnecessary violence throughout Northern Ireland. By comparing “taking a side” in the conflict to putting your back up against the wall, U2 uses metaphor to describe the futility of becoming a foot-soldier in a tit-for-tat game of murder.

A central focus of the conflict were disputes between Catholics and Protestants, U2 mentions the conflict and the uselessness of violence surrounding the religious conflict.

The real battle just begun

To claim the victory Jesus won 

On—

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday

By stating the paradox of killing for a victory that has already occurred, U2 exposes the worthlessness of religious violence.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” takes a neutral stand and displays the consequences of violence. Through metaphor, imagery, and paradox, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” inspired a movement towards peace in Northern Ireland.

Poetry In Music

Sam Smith is an artist who is particularly known for his sad romantic songs. The song “Too Good At Goodbyes” was released on September 8, 2017, as part of the album The Thrill Of It All. In this song, Smith is describing a rollercoaster of a former romantic relationship. He depicts the problems with a relationship that is on and off and the emotional toll that it has.

I’m never gonna let you close to me

Even though you mean the most to me

‘Cause every time I open up, it hurts

So I’m never gonna get too close to you

Even when I mean the most to you

In case you go and leave me in the dirt

In the chorus, Smith is illustrating the distance that is created after a breakup. Despite, getting back together, he is not able to move past their breakup and it harms their relationship. He is not able to forget what happened between them and therefore is no longer able to be as close with his partner in an effort to protect himself.

I know you’re thinkin’ I’m heartless

I know you’re thinkin’ I’m cold

I’m just protectin’ my innocence

I’m just protectin’ my soul

In this verse, he is describing why he is unable to open up to his significant other. He argues that he is not a cruel person but has to distance himself in order to protect himself from being hurt again. He is unwilling to endure any more pain and therefore feels the need to close himself off from his partner.

‘Cause every time you hurt me, the less that I cry

And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry

And every time you walk out, the less I love you

These lines illustrate the love that is lost as a result of the turbulence in the relationship. Smith describes how he becomes more detached from his significant other every time that they break up and is unable to return to how their relationship was previously. Their relationship weakens whenever they break up and they become more distant as a result of protecting themselves.

Poetry Until Death

A poem is a poem, and every poem is different in the way it flows and impacts the reader. However, every song starts as a poem. “Repeat Until Death” is part of the album “Birthplace” written by Welsh artist Novo Amor. The song itself transports the listener into another world with its dream-like instrumental, but when diving deeper into the lyrics, one can interpret the poetic nature of this song.

Low, a part of me now
A palm to my mouth
I said it, almost

Snow, brother, I’ll bet it all gold
Shudder with blood in my nose
I had it, almost

Don’t go, you’re half of me now
But I’m hardly stood proud
I said it, almost”

Recurring throughout the entirety of the song, at the end of each verse is the word “almost”. Although it may seem like an innocent or unimportant addition, the placing of the word almost works to describe the pain that goes along with raising your hopes only to be disappointed again and again. In a way, this song serves as a self-reflection for the speaker, and the repetition of the word “almost” in the context of this song insinuates regret. As each verse goes on, the speaker describes a time in their past in which they were so close to obtaining what they wanted, and the end result was simply always “almost”. Throughout the song, Novo Amor depicts how you can give yourself to a person to the point where they become half of you, only to take more of you until there is nothing left.

Oh, I’ve been low
But dammit, I bet it don’t show
It was heaven a moment ago
Oh, I had it almost
We had it almost”

Further along in the song, the artist describes the pain of loving someone with a series of highs and lows, with things never working out the way they should. The transitional use of “I”, and then to “We” when describing “almost” further emphasizes the meaning of the song, in terms of the way two people can become one. The use of the word “dammit” preceding “I bet it don’t show” speaks to the frustration the artist feels when it seems as if they try and try but can never seem to be fully satisfied. In addition, the comparison of the artist’s relationship to heaven further adds to the contrast of the negative emotions present throughout the song. This addition serves as a good juxtaposition to emphasize the helplessness felt when something that felt like heaven falls apart.

“Oh, I can’t seem to let myself leave you
But I can’t breathe anymore
Oh, I can’t seem to not need to need you
And I can’t breathe anymore”

Finally, at the end of the song, the speaker gives up and reveals that the damage is not worth the reward. The figurative use of “But I can’t breathe anymore” is very powerful in this context as it speaks to the physical effect that emotional trauma can have on people. At a certain point, the pain is too much, and it feels suffocating, which is put into words in a poetic way throughout the entirety of this song.

A Friend And A Cousin

In Saba’s 2018 album, CARE FOR ME, he tackles headfirst into the isolation and trauma he faced growing up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. His poetic style of Chicago hip-hop and rap is highlighted especially in his 2nd to last track PROM / KING. In this song, he speaks vividly about his early memories of his cousin and fellow Pivot Gang member, John Walt, and the lead-up to his fatal stabbing in early 2017. As Perrine states in his definition of poetry, “Poetry, finally, is a multi-dimensional language,” it uses intelligence, senses, emotions, and imagination to communicate experience. Saba not only fulfills these requirements but goes above and beyond in his storytelling in order to provide an even greater understanding of his perspective to the listener. PROM / KING holds the importance of family up on a pedestal. Through his lyrics, he explains how one’s family is always close by to help through hardships, no matter what. Saba, without a doubt, can place his listener in his shoes. He uses relatable imagery and diction in order to display the character of John Walt and the progression of their relationship through the years.

I think about it for a minute, like, “What’s his intentions?”
I mean, we never really got along or used to kick it
In fact, if I remember—vividly—he picked on me
He used to beat me up and take my sneakers every family visit

Saba

Saba is so personable in his writing. Like in reality, people constantly interrupt stories with spontaneous thoughts. This verse above is placed as an intrusion to the prior one and acts as a flashback where Saba recalls his past encounters with Walt. These thoughts that enter sporadically in the song foreshadow Saba’s frustration and distress that are revealed later. In the 3rd line, he emphasizes how clearly he remembers his relationship with his cousin–creating even more tension when Saba finally decides to trust his cousin and call his prom date.

Phrasing and syntax are crucial elements throughout the song. With a simple usage of line breaks, commas, and semi-colons, Saba is able to influence his own perspective and compare and contrast it with others.

Me and Cuz stayed down the street, living different lives
Every day, he on the bus; me, I get a ride
I gave him thirty on the porch, he never went inside
He tells me, “Thank you,” then he walk back home with a smile
He tryna hide it, but I see his dimple

Saba

In the first three lines of this verse, Saba perfectly captures the past relationship between him and Walt. He starts the line off with “Me and Cuz stayed down the street,” then finishes it with “living different lives.” Despite their close location, they had no insight into what each other’s lives were like, very much demonstrating that alienation people may feel when living in big cities such as Chicago. There is even social class commentary on the line, “he on the bus; me, I get a ride.” Saba creates this visual image of separation as well as literal separation within the lines. Although this past meeting between the two is merely transactional, to end the verse, Saba pushes forth the idea that he and Walt have a solid connection forming, even though he hides it, Saba “sees his dimple”.

PROM / KING is fluid in its execution. What is so unique about Saba’s music is his ability to shift into different movements inside of the song, sort of like a sonata, in classical terms. The structure of the song is developed in a way where there are two parts, Prom and King. Prom, tells the story of how Saba’s cousin, Walt, helps him get a prom date, establishing a strong relationship between the two. The song then transitions into part two, King, where Walt and Saba become extremely close friends and successfully create music together until the shocking details of Walt’s death are revealed. I find this aspect of PROM / KING poetic because it is a technique of storytelling that undoubtedly enlightens and moves the listener. We go into the song not knowing John Walt, to wishing there was a possibility of saving him before his life was taken away. This is poetry. The listener lives through the experience and learns from it thanks to the brilliance of the writer. We learn to never take anything for granted…

I just hope I make it ’til tomorrow

Saba

Emotional Motion Sickness

Pheobe Bridgers is an up-and-coming artist who uses storytelling to entrance her listeners into a moment in her life or feeling she has experienced. Her song “Motion Sickness” is the second track on her album “Stranger In The Alps”, which was released September 22nd, 2017. In this song, Pheobe is writing about being on a roller coaster of emotions. She describes a relationship where she has as been built up and broken down thousands of times and says it was like she had motion sickness from all the ups and downs in the relationship. In the song, she illustrates many moments and feelings where she felt as though she was being manipulated and thrown around. 

I hate you for what you did

And I miss you like a little kid

I faked it every time

But that’s alright

I can hardly feel anything

I hardly feel anything at all

Motion Sickness – Pheobe Bridger’s

In the first verse of the song, she starts out strong by using juxtaposition. She claims that she hates this person for everything they have done to her but still misses them. She misses the feelings she had with them and the idea she had of them in her head. Even though someone treats us poorly, we can still miss them and miss having them in our lives. She uses this juxtaposition to show the conflicting feelings one can have after a breakup, and especially after an emotionally abusive one like the one she experienced. 

Im on the outside looking through

You’re throwing rocks around your room

And while you’re bleeding on your back

In the glass

I’ll be glad that I made it out

And sorry that it all went down like it did

Motion Sickness – Pheobe Bridgers

In a later verse, Pheobe described feeling like she is on the outside looking into her own relationship. She describes being able to see her partner self-sabotaging themselves and the relationship when she says “You’re throwing rocks around your room.” This line isn’t supposed to be taken literally but is inferring the kind of damage this person did to themself and others around them through their actions. Although Pheobe recognizes that her partner at the time was purposefully abusing her mentally, and physically, she is still sorry that it all happened. This verse illustrates how once you are out of an abusive relationship, you can fully see everything that should’ve driven you away sooner from the “outside.” 

I have emotional motion sickness

Somebody roll the windows down

There are no words in the English language

I could scream to down you out

Motion Sickness – Pheobe Bridger’s

Finally, in the chorus, we can see the story come full circle when she talks about the emotional motion sickness she had from the relationship. This metaphor is referring to physical motion sickness becoming more emotional and a sort of feeling you experience when someone keeps letting you down and then getting your hopes up again. She even goes further with this metaphor by saying the windows need to be rolled down, as though she is going to throw up from all of the ups and downs. This line is a beautiful representation of how some abusive relationships go and the title of the song being “Motion Sickness”, fully encompasses what Pheobe is trying to describe. Pheobe Bridger’s use of metaphors, juxtaposition, and use of scenarios to illustrate a feeling or occurrence adds to the essence of this song and makes it an experience to listen to.