Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit’s song “Fireworks” is just one example of poetry on their amazing album Ruins. While the singing and instrumentals were what originally drew me to the song, it has great lyrics and is a wonderful example of music poetry.

Like many songs on the album, which was created after a broken engagement, the song is about a breakup. “Fireworks” uses lyrics and music to bring the listener into the speaker’s mind and world.I took a trip out to the frozen lake

And it felt so far away

But I could feel it washing over me

There’s no escaping the harsh light of day

The poem repeats motifs of water/lakes and light. I would describe the musical aspects of the song as flowy and bright, making these motifs more effective and present in the poem. I’m not sure what these motifs represent or are trying to convey, but the song effectively transports the listener into the speaker’s situation with powerful imagery.

Why do I do this to myself every time?

I know the way it ends

Before it’s even begun

I am the only one

At the finish line

One of the most powerful lines in the poem is “Why do I do this to myself?” This is repeated many times throughout the poem and puts the listener in the speaker’s mind. The chorus (lyrics below) is repeated three times during the song. The repetition demonstrates the speaker’s regret and how their mind is stuck, repeating the same questions over and over.

I would highly recommend giving First Aid Kit a listen. Every song features comforting and bright harmonies, but the band also takes a lot of risks ensuring that every song sounds different. Every First Aid Kit song is a powerful piece of music poetry.

My Grandma Just Died, and I Can Only Blame Myself

by Charles Dear

Imagine that your closest relative has just passed away. What do you do? What should you feel? The song “Helena” by American scene band My Chemical Romance is lead singer Gerard Way’s tribute to his late grandmother, and is a perfect encapsulation of all the raw feelings that arise in mourning. This song is part of the album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, which is a concept album about two lovers who die. One of them runs into the devil after death, who promises that the two can be together again if he receives the souls of 1,000 evil men. Now, this song does not assume the same vengeful tone as the rest of the album, and deals in pure fact rather than Way’s creation. It is the opening track on the album. I think Way did that strategically, putting his painful experiences with death as a lead-off.

As much as this album works as a whole, I feel that “Helena” stands out. Way describes the song this way, “It’s about why I wasn’t around for this woman who was so special to me, why I wasn’t there for the last year of her life…an angry open letter to myself.” He was also a heavy drinker during this period. The best representation of this mentality is in the chorus. It is a simple four-liner: (“What’s the worst thing I can say/Things are better if I stay/So long and goodnight/So long and goodnight”). Anyway, it is evident that Way is caught between staying around and moving on in the wake of his grandmother’s death. He chooses the latter because he can’t say anything, and dislikes himself for it. I would like to expand on the “So long and goodnight” line on its own as well. It is in parentheticals in some versions of the song. As such, I would contend it is its most important line. Humans do not say “So long and goodnight” to each other. Each phrase on its own, yes, but together it seems too ominous and serves to illustrate the damning finality of death.

The pre-chorus also touches on Way’s loathing. It runs thusly: (“And what’s the worst you take/from every heart you break?/And like the blade you stain/Well I’ve been holding on tonight”). Way’s drinking problem is upsetting his family. Simultaneously, he has just been holding on to his life and sanity in the wake of such a tragedy. Since the format of the song is a letter to himself, the “you” and “I” in the pre-chorus refer to the same person.

I love how touching and poignant this song is. It is very hard to cope with the death of a loved one, but Gerard Way does just that in this song, with a delivery that is emotional but not effusive.

The Poetic Understandment of Love

To fulfill or understand the notion of love may be impossible, however when written down the meanings are endless. To some, the song “Blue Eyed Girl” may just be another love song explaining the gratitude one has for his partner, but to the eye’s of poetry: a masterpiece is born within. Written by The Arcadian Wild and released on their first album, The Arcadian Wild, the song relays the importance of unconditional love and the impeccable impact love may have. In the album, “The Arcadian Wild”, love is written in traditional and non-traditional gestures, but mainly it lies in the perseverance of the eyes. The lasting connection that is drawn from one’s eyes helps explain what love means to one another, making this song a poetic masterpiece. 

As the song begins, immediate gratification is brought to the listener’s ears through the lyrics of the first verse. Lincoln Mick, lead songwriter, displays a type of love where one partner can really can the other for the better. In this case, the narrator was a lost person before meeting her, and he was waiting for the day they may be together. 

Well, I’d been writing songs about you

Before our paths ever crossed

And since I’ve been hanging around you

I’ve been feeling a little less lost

The narrator acknowledges the rhythm of her spirit created in him and only wants the world to see this side of her. The story of their love was that she saved him. She saved him from the grey world surrounding him, the dullness filling his life, and finding a will to continue on. He only wishes throughout this song, with revealing a signature feature of hers, that the world will interpret the beauty that lies within everyone. 

Let the colors of your soul spill out for everyone to see

In a world of black, and white, and gray

You paint something beautiful every day

Through words of love and admiration, a poetic masterpiece is being produced. The poetic language being used, one could argue, resembles the truthness to their love story. Each one is to further display what this love from the blue eyed girl has done to impact his life. Instead of stating the obvious and letting the lyrics sit dully, the uses of allusion, diction, and metaphors help enhance the narrator’s meaning and importance of this blue eyed girl.  

I’ll march right along to your beat

And the rhythm of your spirit makes me

Feel much more alive

There’s wisdom in the way you speak

And I see “I love you” in your eyes 

In the particular verse brought to attention above, these uses of poetic language are strongest. The way his love is described to the audience through the diction chosen is very much alive. Using bright words such as spirit, alive, or even I love you all speaks to the audience to feel how he is feeling for the blue eyed girl. The uses of diction create butterflies in one’s stomach that last long enough to envy the love that exists in these verses. The metaphor that is fluent in this quick stanza is the last line, which goes back to the title of the song, “Blue Eyed Girl”. The metaphor that exists in the idea of eyes is represented throughout the song, however in this exact line, the strongest and realest meaning is shown. What the narrator is trying to express for why eyes mean so much to him is answered with this simple line. Knowing the impact of how the blue eyed girl created a new way of life to the narrator has been formed through each stanza, there has been subtle allusion to how she has truly impacted him. Alluding to the wisdom that she speaks is mentioned in this line, it represents how she has worked through personal confections with him. This poetic masterpiece, a sonnet one may argue, relays the everlasting impact of love with only a tone of love.

The Power of Ivy

Ivy” is the product of one of the most successful women to have ever graced the music industry. Track 10 on her 9th studio album evermore, Taylor Swift achieved some of the most beautiful lyricism of her career in this masterpiece. The subject of the poem is highly debated, many fans believing it narrates the love life of acclaimed writer Emily Dickinson, but the basic premise becomes clear as you listen: a married woman is in love with someone who is not her husband, and she grapples with the complex feelings associated with her adultery. Who it is about and Swift’s relationship with this experience is unknown, but one thing is astonishingly clear: the beautiful passion and depth of poetry is epitomized in the words. The poem coalesces many meanings in simple phrases, condensing great emotion into so few words. It uses extended metaphors, clever rhyming and scheme and beautiful imagery to convey a deeply emotional and heartbreaking experience.

The song opens establishing the setting, where the subject meets the lover she is addressing:

How’s one to know?
I’d meet you where the spirit
meets the bones
In a faith-forgotten land
In from the snow
Your touch brought forth an
incandescent glow
Tarnished, but so grand

Like true poetry, so much meaning is condensed so closely in the first 13 words of the song. The line “where the spirit meets the bones” has many layers. As referenced later in the song, this line is about the physical place where they meet, a graveyard.  The meaning is emotional as well, spirit and bone meet in the body, she met her lover with her whole body, her whole heart, her whole mind. The words “faith-forgotten” establish the circumstances under which they meet, the love is clearly adultery as the narrator’s husband is mentioned later in the song. “Incandescent” as an adjective has two definitions: 1. emitting light as a result of being heated and 2. full of strong emotion; passionate. Both definitions are used in these lines. As the narrator comes “in from the snow” she is met by the heat and light of her lover’s touch. A touch which is also full of strong emotion. Coming to her lover “from the snow” implies that her previous love was absent of incandescent glow. Or absent of the passion and warmth she finds with this new love. The final line of the first stanza characterizes the “glow” mentioned in the previous line. Tarnished elicits a feeling of age, a shine that has dulled from years of disuse, an odd word to describe so much passion. Swift follows tarnished with “but so grand”, though the love is “dulled” it is still great and beautiful. All of this emotion, meaning and experience is encompassed in so few words, just the first verse of a four and a half minute masterpiece.

The pre-chorus re-introduces the graveyard, adding more to our understanding  of the budding romance:

And the old widow goes to the stone everyday
But I don’t I just stay here and wait
Grieving for the living

In describing a widow and the stone she visits, Swift brings back the graveyard setting. A woman who mourns the loss of her husband by visiting his gravestone. The narrator, however, does not have a gravestone to mourn a past lover, she stays in the graveyard “grieving for the living”. She is missing someone who is not dead, but somehow lost from her regardless. The most obvious interpretation that can be made from this is the loss of love, trust, faith or contact within the narrator’s marriage. She is grieving what she has lost in the marriage, at the same time, waiting in that graveyard for her new spark, confirmed in the first verse. She waits for new love in the death of her old one, Swift masterfully asserts through the physical and emotional location described in the song.

From here, the chorus is introduced: 

Oh, Goddamn
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t 
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you

Swift is implying the narrator’s pain is cradled easily in the lover’s hand, that the lover understands and nurses that pain so easily. The description “freezing hand” connects back to the first verse, where the lover’s touch is described as incandescent. The extended metaphor and  contradiction here is difficult to understand at first, how can one both provide warmth and passion, but still themselves be frozen? The lover can not be made warm because they give love so intensely. Perhaps the lover remains so cold because the narrator can not provide the support they give in return, because of the “house of stone” mentioned later in the poem. Connecting one deeply moving metaphor to another, Swift brings us to the line that named the song: “My house of stone, your ivy grows / And now I’m covered in you”. Stone is timeless, strong, cold and unyielding and though it is tested by horrible storms and great tribulations, it stands. This can be wonderful to liken your heart to, because it means it can bear great hardship and still go on. It also means the narrator’s heart has endured quite a lot and therefore will not weaken to love. Except, of course, to this love, who weakens stone through ivy. Ivy is not violent, it doesn’t bring the stone down, it simply grows and flourishes on it and in it’s gentle expression of life, loosens the stone. The narrator’s cold, tested “house of stone” is now covered in the lover’s understanding and life-filled “ivy”. 

The song continues into two more verses, three more choruses and a beautiful bridge that counters the expressions of love with those of anger, bringing emotional complexity to the song. In verse three Swift writes:

Clover blooms in the field
Spring breaks loose, the time is near 
What would he do if he found us out?
Crescent moon, coast is clear
Spring breaks loose, but so does fear
He’s gonna burn this house to the ground

In one short rhyme scheme Swift utilizes multiple poetic devices. Metaphor is used to liken the new love to life of springtime bursting out into the world. It characterizes the nature of the relationship, inciting hope. The repetition of the second and fifth lines, induces a sense of anxiety in the listener. The reader experiences the narrator’s fear of being discovered. The repeated lines end in rhyme with each other, implying the connection between the joy of love and the fear of unfaithfulness are intertwined, emphasizing again the anxiety the repetition created. She concludes this portion of the song with a conclusion about her husband’s actions. That he would “burn this house to the ground”. Therefore extending another metaphor many verses into the song. The house the narrator and her lover have built, one of stone covered in ivy, will be destroyed and therefore the unique trust and love it represents. This line also characterizes the violence of the husband, that he would burn and destroy until there was nothing left. No shelter from the cold that is so often referenced in the song. 

I would need a novel to explain all the poetry and deeper meanings written into this song, so I encourage anyone reading this to listen for themselves and feel the emotion Swift further demonstrates with musicality. This is a poem that needs to be heard to be understood. It is a masterpiece only Swift could conjure up.

“The Blacker the Berry” Paints Vivid Picture of American History

The roots of racism in America can be traced back to the 1500s, when the first enslaved people were brought along the Middle Passage from West Africa to the Caribbean Islands and what would become the southeastern United States. The institution of slavery lasted for more than three centuries in the Western Hemisphere, with the importation of enslaved people to this area of the globe ending in 1808 and the practice of enslaving people ending shortly after the American Civil War. But racism in America, extreme prejudice taken against African-American people, has existed up until today, even through the Jim Crow and Civil Rights Movement era.

Given this context, when an artist writes a song about institutionalized racism in America, it is difficult for it not to sound cliche or dissolve into the basic moral of “everyone is human and should be treated equally.” But Kendrick Lamar’s The Blacker the Berry creates raw images of America’s institutionalized racism from both sides that make the song last in the listener’s mind as poetry.

The song begins with an interlude that seems to be from the perspective of a white slaveowner. At the end of each line, the perspective switches to that of a black person being sold into slavery.

Everything black, I don’t want black (they want us to bow) / I want everything black, I ain’t need black (down to our knees) / Some white, some black, I ain’t mean black (and pray to the God) / I want everything black (we don’t believe)

The Blacker the Berry, Interlude

Each line of the first stanza begins with a white slaveowner who wants to purchase an enslaved person — he “want(s) black” but at the same time does not — and ends with the perspective of a black person thinking the thoughts the slaveowner doesn’t want them to think. The black person knows the manipulation and unfair labor they are about to endure, but cannot speak up to the white slaveowner, who makes all the choices and holds all the power. The idea of songwriting from the perspectives of the oppressor and the oppressed, rather than from a modern-day perspective, is what makes this song vivid poetry.

Lamar’s lyrics shift through time into the first verse, when the black man is a free, independent person who thinks what he wants to think and says what he wants to say. In this verse, he seems to being prosecuted for a crime illustrated in the bridge (“six in the morn / fire in the street”).

I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015 / Once I finish this witnesses will convey just what I mean / Been feelin’ this way since I was sixteen, came to my senses / You never liked us anyway, fuck your friendship, I meant it

The Blacker the Berry, Verse 1

Back in the present, Lamar portrays the speaker as someone who is angry at the treatment of black people throughout history. He seems to be predicting what the white man is about to say (“I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”). He responds by telling the white man that he has come to his senses since his youth. This heated exchange conveyed through the mind of the oppressed illustrates modern-day racial stereotypes without directly saying them.

Every song is a poem, as long as it does not preach morals by giving the listener direct thoughts from the lyricist’s mind. A song is what you make of it, but you can only make something of it if it forces you to think about the lyricist’s emotions and motive for writing the song.

This is what “The Blacker the Berry” does, and this is what makes track 13 of “To Pimp a Butterfly” pure poetry. Switching back and forth between past and present, Lamar forces the listener not to hyperfocus on present-day racial prejudice (as songs like Lil Baby’s The Bigger Picture do), but to think about the centuries-long institution that made this racial prejudice come to be.

Continuing to switch back and forth between past (“Woi, we feel a whole heap of pain, cah’ we black / And man a say they put me inna chains, cah’ we black”) and present (“You hate me, don’t you? … Muscle cars like pull ups, show you what these big wheels ’bout”), Lamar calls out white people on their generational oppression of black people, pointing to the success black men such as him have today.

Before the outro, Lamar raps his final verse with defiance, establishing pride in his culture and racism as a generational issue.

The plot is bigger than me, it’s generational hatred / It’s genocism, it’s grimy, little justification / I’m African-American, I’m African / I’m Black as the heart of a fuckin’ Aryan”

The Blacker the Berry, Verse 3

In Lamar’s last verse, he creates a call to action for the future, implementing all tenses into an issue that has defined American history.

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.

“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.

A Tribe Called Poetry

A Tribe Called Quest is a hip-hop group that formed in Queens in 1985. The fourth song on A Tribe Called Quest’s second studio album, The Low-End Theory, is “Butter“. Butter is a great example of the ability of The Tribe’s wordplay, specifically by one of their four members, Phife Dawg.

In Butter, Phife Dawg immediately brings us back to his alma matter in 1988.

1988 senior year at Garvey High

Where all the guys were corny but the girls were mad fly

Phife then gets into what his life was like for him at his high school.

I was the b-ball playing, fly rhyme saying

Fly girl getting but never was I sweating

In 1988, the year Phife’s taking us back to, Phife is pursuing a professional basketball career but is eventually convinced by the rest of the tribe to rap instead. Phife is a self-proclaimed “fly girl getter” but soon has to choose between girls and music.

‘Cause when it came to honeys I would go on a stroll

Until I met my match—her name was Flo

Phife meets “Flo”, which is a metaphor for him recognizing his rhythm and flow. Flo is his match because Phife realizes that he should be a rapper instead of a basketball player.

Yesterday your eyes were brown but today they are blue

Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true

Later in the song, Phife describes that Flo’s appearance is a lie because he finds the rap industry is different than he expected.

In his young rap career, Phife realizes that the music industry is fake and heartless.

If your hair and eyes were real, I wouldn’t have dissed ya

But since it was bought, I had to dismiss ya

Flo is given fake ears and eyes because Phife thinks that the music industry puts material growth first, something Phife doesn’t want.

On the outside “Butter” is a story about a guy getting girls, but on the inside, it is a song about the struggles of a young rapper getting into the music industry.

Not Not a Poetic Song

The song “Not” by the band Big Thief appears on their fourth studio album, Two Hands. The Brooklyn based quartet has a wide arsenal of Indie Rock songs, but “Not” plays with the rules of song making and thus takes on a unique, poetic form.

It’s not the energy reeling
Nor the lines in your face
Nor the clouds on the ceiling
Nor the clouds in space

The song uses the repetition of the word “Not” or nor to describe the indescribable. For me the song encapsulates the aspects of life that cannot be put into simple words, the closest one can come to explaining it is to say what it is not. What I mean by “it” is the feelings and emotions essential to the human experience. For me the song begins to grasp at what it feels like to be alive. My favorite aspect of the song is that rather than try to explain a complex subject like how to feels to be a human, Big Thief describes the describable, more simple aspects of life to draw contrast between knowable, and the inexplicable larger feelings.

Nor the boy I’m seeing

With her long black hair

These two lines blur the gender, and thus humans seamlessly. It is another instance in which the song leaves things unexplained to its audience. Rather than explicitly state who the song is talking about, a negative space is left, switching genders one line to the next has the same effect as saying not before every statement. It explicitly states the simple, but leaves the complex deliberately left unsaid. It also emphasizes the mutual human experience over the individual.

Not the meat of your thigh

Nor your spine tattoo
Nor your shimmery e

The imagery of human flesh in these lines reminds the audience of the subject of the song, humans, yet also reiterates that appearance is not what is important. Saying not before a line of dazzling imagery forces the reader to picture what they have just read, but also disregard it as unimportant. In this way, this imagery works at multiple levels to both communicate the humanity, and also disregard the physical world to better encapsulate the emotional one.

It’s not the room
Not beginning
Not the crowd
Not winning
Not the planet
Not spinning
Not a ruse
Not heat
Not the fire lapping up the creek
Not food
Not to eat
Not to die
Not dying
Not to laugh
Not lying

Apologies for the obnoxiously long quote, but here is the chorus of the song “Not.” I believe the song works to emphasize what being human feels like by describing all it does not. The use of a word, and then in the next line explaining the action of said word does multiple things. First it continues the themes of the human experience, by explain the most essential parts to life, like eating, laughter, dying. But in doing so, the song also shows that there is more to being a human, more that is inexplicable. We as the reader know there are larger emotional attached to be a human, because the ones in the chorus, while important are explainable and thus unable to truly describe what it is like to be alive. The chorus reminds the reader of shared humanity, while simultaneously proving that life is indescribable.

‘Come Out Ye Blacks and Tans’: an anti-colonial diss track.

“Colonialism. The enforced spread of the rule of reason. But who is going to spread it among the colonizers?”

Anthony Burgess

It has been said that “great” britain’s largest export is independence days, and in fact there are only 22 countries worldwide that have never been a victim of english aggression.

The song “Come out ye Blacks and Tans“, was written during the Irish war for independence and later recorded by the band The Wolfe Tones. The song details the struggles of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the royal Irish constabulary, called the blacks and tans because of their uniforms.

Note: out of respect for my Irish ancestry and name I refuse to capitalize any proper nouns relating to britain or england other than Ireland.

This song has a very simple thesis: the british army (Especially the royal Irish constabulary) is a bunch of losers and the Irish will beat them in the end. After this the song does go into some entirely justified depictions of English brutality, colonialism and hypocrisy.

“I was born on a Dublin street where the royal drums did beat

And those loving english feet they walked all over us.”

These lines emphasize the experience of living under an english-controlled city and contrasts their (supposed) intentions with their actual actions. As elegantly put by Anthony Burgess, the british thought that they were doing everyone they invaded a favour by making them more ‘civilized’ and European. The song uses ‘loving english feet’ to describe how english imperialism brutalizes and alienates a population under the guise of developing it. The song declares such actions to be ignorantly hipocritical.

The song also decries the english military as weak and overconfident in their numerous successes over native populations.

“Come tell us how you slew
Them old Arabs two by two
Like Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows
How bravely you faced each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them damn natives to their marrow”

For the Irish, they’ve had enough of these highfalutin anglo-saxons slaughtering countless populations across the globe and then bragging about it. The Irish argued that annihilating indigenous peoples with guns, germs and steel was not something to be proud of. The dismissive diction of the verse, ‘them old Arabs’ and ‘them damn natives’ mirrors the dismissive nature of english policy (and english historians) towards their numerous conquests.

Conversely, the description of bravery in the face of underwhelming odds is echoed in how ‘bravely’ english soldiers massacred countless natives in an instant, like what the english did when subjugating Ireland. This verse offers solidarity for the many victims of European imperialism while simultaneously calling the english losers. The rational is that england would not have it so easy against a modernly armed people, like the IRA. This reasoning is reinforced by the continued taunting in relation to the disaster of WW1.

“Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders”

The ‘blacks and tans’ (royal Irish constabulary) which were know for their retaliatory massacres of innocent civilians and brutal killings of dissidents were mostly made up of english WW1 vets. The taunting depicted can echo the sheer inhumanity of WW1, and how winning medals in Flanders is a result of slaying numerous men for little to no reason, much like what they did in Ireland. The line can also be a reference to how superior english leadership and technology cannot get them very far when it comes to fighting actual modern armies like the Germans or the IRA, as the song posits. And while I cannot determine whether or not the song caused the outcome, the Irish war for independence happened just as the song posits.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Our Music Poetry Playlist!

I’ve combined all of my three sections of AP Lit — so it’s a broad as well as deep collection. Right now it’s just in artist alphabetical order (Mac Miller runs away with the Most Songs award with 5!), so shuffle if you want a more creative mix.

You have impressed me with the diversity of genre as well as including many artists I just do not know (and I listen to a lot of music — or so I thought!).

Thank you. This is the only end-of-2020 present I really wanted 🙂

Escapism in Summer

In her debut album, Pure Heroine, released at age 16, musical artist Lorde grapples with a variety of topics, including youth, fame, social status, materialism, and mainstream culture. She explores her experience of youth in her song “Buzzcut Season,” imparting this experience through various poetic and literary devices, including understatements and overstatements, personification, metonymy, imagery, and metaphors. The theme Lorde constructs in “Buzzcut Season” is that summer is an escape among adolescents, allowing them to abandon school and the intimidating real world that is approaching and instead live in a suspended state of carefree bliss, however, an undertone of fear persists nonetheless. 

In the beginning lines, Lorde references when she accidentally set fire to a friend’s hair in a school science class, writing “I remember when your head caught flame/It kissed your scalp and caressed your brain.” Lorde then writes “you laughed, baby, it’s okay/It’s buzzcut season anyway.” In this situation, buzzcut season is a metonym for summer. The school year is coming to a close, and the flame gives the friend a taste of the warmth of summer. This is conveyed through the personification of the flame caressing and kissing, indicating it is a comforting force. Being set on fire is downplayed and brushed off here because the students have summer into which they can escape their current pains, such as being burned, so these pains are largely insignificant, seeing as they will disappear soon. Additionally, the friend having their hair set on fire only takes them closer to summer because they can shave it off to enter buzzcut season. 

Lorde then shifts to life during summer, with “Explosions on TV/And all the girls with heads inside a dream/So now we live beside the pool/Where everything is good.” The line “Explosions on TV,” which directly follows the line “It’s buzzcut season anyway,” introduces a new meaning of buzzcut season. The explosions convey the hardships and seriousness of real life, viewed only through a TV by the teens because they are not yet exposed, however, their participation in buzzcut season expresses that they, with their shaved heads, will soon join the war of the world. Following this daunting message, Lorde writes of girls’ heads inside a dream, meaning they, including Lorde, are escaping the world to spend their summer in a dream. Overstatements of them living “beside the pool,” where “everything is good,” communicate their abandonment of their responsibilities in the summer, solely immersing themselves in fun activities. This carefree behavior, like the metaphorical “dream” they are in, is unsustainable though. 

Later in the song, Lorde shifts her tone, writing “Cola with the burnt-out taste/I’m the one you tell your fears to/There’ll never be enough of us.” Cola is a summer drink, and its burnt-out taste conveys the bitterness lingering in one’s mouth as the illusion of an endless, joyful summer begins fizzling out. This also connects to the flame at the beginning of the song, which was ignited with the arrival of summer, but now cola accompanies its burning out. With summer’s illusion dying, fears surface because they are no longer able to be suppressed. To limit their acknowledgement to preserve summer for as long as possible, they are expressed in confidence to very few people. Ultimately, however, Lorde recognizes that there are “never…enough of us,” us being carefree adolescents, so escaping into buzzcut season is only a temporary luxury that will soon no longer be available. 

Lorde closes the song with returning to summer as an escape from difficulties and responsibilities. She writes, “The men up on the news/They try to tell us all that we will lose/But it’s so easy in this blue/Where everything is good.” The formidable real world, or the “men up on the news,” threatens to remove Lorde and her friends from their summer fun by exposing its unsustainability and its deviation from reality, however, they maintain their approach of “nothing’s wrong when nothing’s true.” These adolescents choose to deny the fact that they cannot avoid their mounting responsibilities forever because “It’s so easy in this blue/Where everything is good.” “This blue” is a metaphor for summer, and it also ties into the motif of pools the adolescents live beside during summer. While the exaggeration that “everything is good” applies when floating unburdened in water, one must eventually come to land so as not to drown. For now though, as the final line “I live in a hologram with you” implies, Lorde and her friends will prolong their transient, blissful hologram that is summer (metaphor) for as long as possible.