“Song of Ourselves”

Coming off our final unit on Romantic poetry, specifically a deep dive into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, we wrote a final send-off poem together, inspired by Whitman’s send-off in section 52 of “Song of Myself.”

Here is the text version of our “Song of Ourselves.”  And here is our video:

“Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson

In this absolutely surreal time, it is important to remember that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – Kelly Clarkson. This song is not only poetic in its lyrics, it is also inspiring during this global pandemic when things seem like they’ve hit rock bottom.

Thanks to you
I’m finally thinking about me
You know in the end
the day you left was just my beginning

One thing that really stands out about this line is the antithesis. Using “end” and “beginning” is an important contrast and it shows that although it may have been the end of a relationship for Kelly, it was the only the beginning of the rest of her life where she can really focus on herself. This really applies to us seniors because even though our senior year ended all too soon, it is really only the beginning of our lives. We have so much to look forward to.

What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn’t mean I’m over cause you’re gone

This line metaphorically explains why going through something tough makes a person stronger. Your footsteps don’t actually get lighter, you just feel better after you have been through something that was really hard. I think this is an amazing way to portray successfully getting through a struggle and it is a nice reminder to all of us that quarantine is not going to kill us. In fact, it will make us appreciate seeing friends, going to school, and being able to go out to dinner so much more.

I think that this song is a great addition to our Positivity Playlist. It helps us remember that we need to stay optimistic about our current situation because we can only go up from here.

Why “Wild Roses” is a Song of Positivity and Empathy

My submission to the songs of positivity and empathy playlist was “Wild Roses,” from Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men’s third album Fever Dream. I personally loved this album, even as it departed somewhat from the band’s style in their first two albums, which you probably knew if you read my review of it in the Trapeze last semester. “Wild Roses” happens to be my favorite song on that album. However, it’s not an obviously cheery song like some of the other songs on the playlist, and so I’d like to explain why I picked it, other than just liking it. And maybe do a little bit of line-by-line music poetry analysis, too. The song’s exact meaning is a little vague, but I’ll be talking about the general sense I get from it.

(Go listen to the song before you read if you’re at all interested.)

Wild roses on a bed of leaves in the month of May

I think I wrote my own pain

Oh, don’t you?

This line is an interesting way to open the song. “Wild roses” are an important metaphorical symbol in the song, perhaps representing sweetness or peace in a natural sense, but they’re also not, which is important. The word “wild” here is definitely somehow relevant, and I think it is referring to the speaker; they may appear nice, but there’s an edge, a neurosis that’s eating them up somehow, perhaps? I’ll get back to roses. “I think I wrote my own pain” suggests that the speaker is suffering and brought it upon themselves somehow, which isn’t exactly a message of positivity, although I’m sure we all can empathize with that.

Down by the creek, I couldn’t sleep so I followed a feelin’

Sounds like the vines, they are breathing

Even though the speaker is tormented, nature is at peace elsewhere, and this gives them some solace. This is part of why I consider this song to be one of positivity: not unbridled light, but light within darkness. But it’s a little too early in the song for me to be generalizing a theme.

And I’ve seen the way the seasons change when I just give it time

But I feel out of my mind all the time

Things do get better and the world does go on if we give it time, but it isn’t easy to do that. The speaker feels trapped in their neuroses and struggles, like it’s never going to get better.

In the night I am wild-eyed, and you got me now

This line is the first time we’ve heard of someone other than the speaker, as well as the reuse of the word “wild.” The speaker is evidently going through a dark time, which the night may be a symbol for, but there is someone here to help.

Oh, roses, they don’t mean a thing, you don’t understand

But why don’t we full on pretend?

Oh, won’t you?

“That which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet.” So goes the famous line from Romeo and Juliet, and I think there’s definitely a loose connection there. Much like Juliet questioned the utility or necessity of the word “rose,” the speaker questions their utility as a metaphorical concept. Roses don’t mean anything. They’re just flowers. We assign symbolic purpose to them as heralds of beauty and romance, but there’s nothing that really makes a rose romantic beyond smelling nice. Mentioning how roses don’t really mean anything is a bold choice in a not otherwise especially deconstructive song named after roses, but it’s the next line that intrigues me. “But why don’t we full on pretend?” Sure, roses don’t mean anything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend they do. Ultimately, the speaker just wants someone to engage in this pretending with them.

Before I closed my eyes I saw a moth in the sky

And I wish I could fly that high

Oh, don’t you?

Humans can’t actually fly above the clouds like insects and birds can. Not without heavy equipment or vehicles, anyway. Flying is the quintessential fantastical dream of humankind, and like the previous lines imply, the speaker wants to make-believe, to wish for better things even in their dark state.

A serpent on a bed of leaves in the month of May

What do you want me to say?

Rather than wild roses, the speaker now refers to themselves as a serpent, often associated with evil or sin in many different religious and cultural traditions (which is totally unfair; snakes are cool, y’all). “What do you want me to say?” implies that they are acknowledging their perceived “evil”; the speaker is filled with some amount of self-loathing, and has no good response to it.

You keep me still when all I feel is an aimless direction
When I think I’m losin’ connection
I see you

Despite the alienation and despair the speaker may be feeling, however, the person they are speaking to is still there for them, no matter what.

In the night I am wild-eyed, and you got me now

Dim the lights, we are wild-eyed, and you got me now

The pre-chorus repeats here, but with a change: “we are wild-eyed.” Not only is the speaker’s friend still here for them, no matter what, the song also acknowledges that both of them are wild-eyed. Both people have their own struggles, but the important thing is that they’re there for each other.

Repeat chorus and pre-chorus.

So, what was the point of that little sojourn? I suppose my point was that “Wild Roses” is not a simply happy song, but it is an optimistic one, and ultimately kind of existential in its message. Nothing has inherent meaning, and we all struggle in a world beyond our abilities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other, acknowledge each other’s plights, and “pretend” — assign our own meanings, try to fly anyway. That’s the best we can do in an existential world, and there’s a certain optimism and beauty in that.

Music Poetry: Neil Young’s Don’t Let it Bring You Down

I’ve been trying hard to find song which resonates what we’re all experiencing with this pandemic and I felt that Neil Young’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” off of his After The Gold Rush album fits my current mindset perfectly.

The title of the album itself is one which portrays my generation’s feelings toward the pandemic. Without any real wars or other mass pandemics like this one, my generation has gotten pretty easy up until this point. However, we, for the most part, have been so safe and healthy that we hadn’t even realized how good we’ve had it.

For the rest of our lives we will be living in the time after the gold rush. Coronavirus should be a huge wake up call to anyone, myself included, who has lived without any real worries and expected life to be handed to them.

In “Don’t Let it Bring You Down,” Young speaks of staying positive through hardship, which is exactly what we all most do, among other things, to get through this pandemic quickly and safely.

Old man lying
By the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by
Blue moon sinking
From the weight of the load
And the buildings scrape the sky

Cold wind ripping
Down the alley at dawn
And the morning paper flies
Dead man lying
By the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

We’re all old men on the side of the road and it seems as if the world is sinking from the weight of our worries. However, this is only castles burning and it will pass. So find someone with a positive mindset and follow them and eventually we will get through this and be happy.

Music Poetry – “Dreams” by The Cranberries

Listening to this song the other day, I couldn’t help but think about how it relates to our current situation. Although the song is actually about falling in love with a person that changes the direction of your life, I think the connection to today is that life can always change unexpectedly.

Oh, my life

Is changing every day

In every possible way

In an erie tune, the song begins by reminding us of the randomness of our day to day, that anything can happen. Covid19 has taken over our lives in a lot of ways over such a short period of time. I would never imagine that I would spend my last semester of high school at home, staying 6-10 feet from my friends, and with a real unknown hanging over my head: How long will this last? And although it is pretty depressing, it also is an opportunity to do things I never could have done without all of this time. From helping my parents with yard work, cleaning out my closet, embroidering the crap out of my clothes, and reading books regularly for the first time since elementary school. The virus is a truly horrible thing, but there still can be a silver lining.

And oh, my dreams

It’s never quite as it seems

Never quite as it seems

The artist goes on to sing about a change in expectations. Her dreams have changed in a way unimaginable because of a person who has entered her life. She never thought she would dream how she is now. I also think about this in a way that many of my hopes for this year seem small compared to the things I hope for now. I’m no longer preoccupied by prom plans or sport seasons, but I hope that my family stays healthy and that researchers will be able to find solutions in the pandemic.

The rest of the song explains that as her life changes with this person (or new situation) her new dreams become stronger and more and more tangible. Every day, we are closer to the end of this quarantine, even though it seems so far away.

Ending on the same two verses (except for a small change), the song leaves the listener with a strange feeling. As much as everything has changed, it will still change again.

Josh Ritter’s “Homecoming”

When thinking of songs to add to our playlist, I couldn’t leave out Josh Ritter’s “Homecoming,” not only because of it’s novel-like lyrics but also because we are spending a lot of time in our homes and becoming sick of them, (which we may regret when we are gone.)

I think this song can have a different meaning to everyone, because it plays into feelings that everyone is familiar with.  Home can mean many things: the place you grew up, a place you feel most comfortable in, or a person. Regardless, I think the song brings up a good memory for everyone, and gets you excited.

Ritter begins talking about the changing seasons, singing:

The nights are getting colder now

The air is getting crisp

I first tasted the universe on a night like this

The word choice in these lines gives the listener a sense of excitement and anticipation.  The listener can almost taste the cold, crisp air on their tongue, an energizing feeling. Ritter goes on to a more serious line, singing:

In a place where the tree of good and evil still resides

This metaphor reminds the listener of the complexity of returning to memories like this.  Although he acknowledges that memories consistent with home may have layers and could bring up bad ideas, he keeps the tone positive.  It does not take away from his love and excitement of coming home.

He also layers a lot of sounds and phrases throughout the song, including, “My heart will stay,” “Hey now, don’t go away now,” and “Homecoming.”

The repetition of these rhythms and phrases makes the listener lose themselves almost like in a trance, thinking about the memory that comes to mind.  This song captures the wistful nature about thinking back, and also the pleasure of the memory. Ritter tells a story through “Homecoming” that you can picture, because you have probably been there yourself.

I’m Still Standing by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Poetry Analysis

Repetition

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah”

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

These four lines are repeated throughout the song since they are a part of the chorus. They are also reiterated on multiple occasions to suggest to the audience of this song that the singer is going to persevere and persist through the hardship the intended audience put them through. When listening to the song, it is clear that the purpose of the writer or singer is to prove that they are getting over a person, over a hardship, or over a circumstance that is not optimal to them.

Why I chose it for the playlist

The playlist constructed by Bernie, which I listen to on the daily, is meant to procure a sense of positivity and resiliency in the listener. During this time of uncertainty with the coronavirus looming large, I felt like a song about getting over adversity would help work towards the goal of the playlist.

This song has always been helpful for me when I have felt the hardship of an unexplained or upsetting circumstance, and I feel like it can help out anybody who feels like this virus has done them wrong. This virus is unexplainable. I have tried to reason with why it has to occur now, and I have yet to find an answer. I dread over the idea of never going back to OPRF as a student again. I miss my classmates, my teachers, and my friends. This song doesn’t solve those grievances, but it helps.

I hope it can help you too.

(My binge watch suggestion of the day is to check out the movie Sing)

(If you don’t know, the picture is a character from the movie who sings this song)