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.”
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.
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)
For my Beloved blog post, I decided to write a sonnet depicting the situation that Sethe is put in when she decides to kill Beloved. Sethe is the speaker, and the object of the poem “the rose” is representative of beloved. The motif I payed close attention to throughout the book was birth and pregnancy, which was meant to portray how the next generation symbolized hope. This is a reason why I was so drawn to Sethe’s incredible dilemma.
I wanted to capture a situation in which someone would kill something that they loved to save it. The image I had in my head was a clearing in a forest that had only one flower growing in it amongst all of the grass. Before the flower ever gets a chance to bloom, fire surrounds it. The only way to “save” that flower so that it can eventually blossom is to cut its stem like slitting a throat.
John Denver’s famous hit country song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was released on April 12th, 1971. Considered as John Denver’s signature song, it was co-written by himself and his good friend Bill Danoff and surprisingly isn’t truly about West Virginia.
To show the poetic meaning of the song, one must look into the context of the writing of the song, as is similarly seen in poems. Bill wrote the song about his home state Maryland, reminiscing about its curving, winding roads. In a state of nostalgia mixed with home sickness, Danoff wrote the piece and presented it to his friend and artist, John Denver. Adding his own twists and turns, Denver created his now most prominent piece, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Almost Heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growing likea breeze
Denver singing to a simple beat, starts his piece with a quatrain. Right away, Denver compares West Virginia to heaven. Denver is using imagery to paint a picture to his listeners. He describes oddly describes life as old followed by describing a breeze as “growing”. I find this odd use of language combined with his detailed features of West Virginia as poetic to his listeners. His singing gives the feeling of nostalgia, a bright look on the past of a country he loved.
Denver’s lines in his hit song also reach multiple dimensions such as the imaginative, sensual, and emotional. This can be seen in the following lyrics.
Misty taste of moonshine
West Virginia, mountain mama
The line “Misty taste of moonshine” gives the listener a sensual feeling. Taste is not normally described as misty, thus the listener imagines the moonshine as misty. The following line “West Virginia, mountain mama” also oddly describes the state as the mother of mountains. Upon hearing this line the listener imagines the mountainous state and can feel the nostalgia that Denver is singing about. This nostalgia is emotional for the listener themselves as they start to recall their own hometown or other matters they are nostalgic about.
Overall, John Denver and Bill Danoff created a poem of nostalgia, that shakes the bones of the listener, painting a picture within their head, and emotionally calling upon their own nostalgic experiences and past.
I first listened to Teddy Hyde’s song “Vanilla Curls” by accident, when it showed up in my Spotify recommended, but the seemingly simple happy song had more depth than I thought, and is a clear example of a musical poem. Telling of it’s inner poetry, the songs first line states the literary device used throughout:
I could drown myself in metaphor
I could crown your head and catch the floor
Lookin’ up at a yellow girl
She won’t cut me free of her Vanilla Curls
Hyde uses these opening lines as just a glimpse into the atmosphere he creates with the rest of the song. He does indeed use a plethora of metaphor throughout the lyrics, describing an almost dying relationship that has left him set in confusion, but also uses clever literary devices such as personification:
Equipped with private eyes, her stare declared me missing
Tried to talk myself out of it, but I never listen
Hyde’s use of literary devices isn’t the only thing that makes this song very poetic, but I would argue his use of diction and imagery does as well. He juxtaposes the melancholy feelings and doubt he has regarding his relationship with playful and silly imagery. Such as describing his significant other as food.
In a minute she already put my feelings in their place
I hate vegetables, but I’d put that stringbean on my plate.
His use of “stringbean” in this line has a deeper meaning as well, as in other songs of his stringbean is used as a term of endearment, like “honey” or “baby”. His seemingly silly wording and phrases creates a sense of childishness, which is interesting as the lyrics have a more to them. For example, near the end of the song he says:
She caught me by the ear and left me lying here in writhing fear
If I get any deeper, I might need diving gear
Hyde has a wonderful way of playing with wording and internal rhyme, while also telling a story of conflict and hurt. But, without looking closer at the lines, you would never guess the precision and thought put into the structure of the sentences, something shrouded by the light airy melody that shapes the song as a whole. Hyde does a seamless job of making the complexity of the lyrics and poetry seem easy and natural, culminating in a lovely tune with a hidden emotional meaning.
The song “Taro” by Alt-j is about a real man. His name was Endre Ernő Friedmann, though he worked under the alias of Robert Capa. He was a traveled photographing many wars until his death at the age of 40.
This song is set at the occasion of his death. He was covering the First Indochina war (referenced by the first word of the song: “Indochina”) after being convinced to photograph it. This was not the first war he had been to, from 1936 to the end of his life he photographed a total of 5 wars the first being the Spanish Civil War. He and his girlfriend Gerda Taro went there and working under the shared alias of Robert Capa documented the war in photographs. However, tragedy struck when his girlfriend, Gerda Taro, for whom the song is named, was killed. He was deeply affected by the loss and never married. A big part of the song is about his reunion with Taro after his death, however, that is not what I will be focusing on.
The first verse contains some of the best imagery I have ever heard in a song:
“(Ooh) Very yellow-white flash!
A violent wrench grips mass
Rips light, tears limbs like rags”
The line “Very yellow-white flash!” in the context of the song leads the listener to first think of a camera flash, however, the next line “A violent wrench grips mass” reveals it to be an explosion. I think the line captures the feel of an explosion well (at least how someone whose never been in one might imagine it to feel like) with its word choice. Wrench is a word you can almost feel in your stomach, it captures the feeling of sudden interruption and disturbance, like your insides are still going forward after your body has been suddenly stopped. Mass makes it feel like the change is not just the person is being wrenched, but something more fundamental. “Rips light” furthers this idea as only something large and powerful on a giant scale could really manipulate light to that extent. In short, these lines gives a feeling of greatness to an explosion nowhere near that scale, unless of course you are caught in it.
Another example of the amazing imagery in this song is the way he describes Capa’s death:
Quivers, last rattles, last chokes
All colours and cares glaze to grey
Shriveled and stricken to dots
He provides both an external and internal view of the same event. Quiver sounds like a quiver and by repeating the word last it reminds the listener that Capa is dying. It then shifts inward to Capa and has three pairs of words starting with the same letter and separated by the word ‘and’. This emphasizes what is being said and stretches the moment in time. I think the focus on visual imagery works very well here considering how he dedicated his life to photography.
The careful control of language used in this song to tells the story of Capa and Taro very well and vividly. I believe that this song is definitely poetry.
MF Doom is a lyrical genius. A master of hidden meanings, he makes amazing sounding music that screams with meaning through every line. Listening to him is almost like a game, trying to point out every time that a possible double meaning has been said. His use of literary devices, rhythm, and double meanings makes his raps seem extremely poetic. That being said, let the games begin.
First off, MF Doom makes use of many literary devices to make his music, and Meat Grinder is no exception.
Hackthoo’ing songs lit, in the booth, with the best host
Doing bong hits, on the roof, in the West Coast
First off, Doom makes use of an onomatopoeia with the first word. At first, I didn’t understand what this word meant, but after looking up the lyrics it dawned on me that that word is another word for spitting. When a person spits, the sound they make often sounds like that, if you pronounce hacktooth, you can see exactly what he’s trying to say, it sounds the same as someone who is about to spit. Spitting is often used as a another term for good rapping, so in this line, Doom is saying that he’s spitting raps, in the booth( which is the studio), with the best host. The best host in this case is Doom’s producer, Madlib, who, in my opinion, is one of “the best hosts”.
Another line that I like is
Still back in the game like Jack LaLanne
Think you know the name, don’t rack your brain
Like the first line, I didn’t really understand what this line meant because of the mention of Jack Lalanne. After looking him up, it makes sense, and it’s a creative way of bragging. A common theme for older rappers is to claim how long they’ve been rapping for, and how long they have been successful.
Doom is no exception, except he does so in a way that most don’t. Jack Lalanne was a fitness instructor. The special thing about him though was that he continued to release fitness videos while he was old, which was different then most people. Jack Lalanne stayed “in the game” for a long time, in fact, he died at 96, and he was instructor until around 87. When it comes to bragging, MF Doom does it differently.
Poetry and music usually come hand and hand, however, sometimes we just sing the lyrics of a song and never really appreciate or understand them. The song “Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine has been one of my family’s favorites for a while; it’s a beautiful nine minute song, that is so easy to get to get lost in, but I have never really thought of the lyrics as poetic.
The song is someone speaking to a friend throughout the stages of life. The audience is never told the gender, race, or age of the speaker or the person the speaker is talking to, which is very lovely.
From analyzing the song and going deeper into the lyrics, I found a lot of devices I would find in a poem. For example, there is repetition of the line “please, remember me” at the beginning of each stanza. Whoever the speaker is talking to, he really wants them to not forget about him, and he makes that clear by repeating it.
There are also a lot of metaphors used throughout the song, but the most important metaphor is “trapeze act” and “trapeze swinger” which appears in verses 5,7, 8, and the title:
“A fleeting chance to see a trapeze Swinger high as any savior”
“The trapeze act was wonderful But never meant to last”
“A monkey and a man, a marching band All around a frightened trapeze swinger”
There are a couple analyses, like in all poems about the meaning of the metaphors. One analysis is about how a trapeze act needs two people, and in verse 7, the artist states “but never meant to last,” meaning he could of gone through a break up and wants his significant other to remember him. Another idea in verse 8 suggests that the world is as crazy as a circus and he is just a scared trapeze swinger. There are many other ways to interpret this poem, which makes it such a interesting piece to read over and over again.
“Sober Up” by AJR featuring Rivers Cuomo from their album The Click is a song about losing yourself in adulthood. The song evokes a feeling of innocence, and the lyrics describe someone searching for their young love and innocence that has been swept away by adult life.
The song starts with:
I’m not where I’m supposed to be
I hope that you’re missing me
‘Cause it makes me feel young
Last time I saw your face
Was recess in second grade
The song is introduced with the speaker lost in his surroundings. His one lifeline is remembering a person from his past because they remind him of happier times in his life. The connection between them has been distant for some time, yet he still yearns for it.
The second verse includes lines like:
I said to my bestest buds
We said that we’d keep in touch
And we did our best
The speaker begins to give more background on the situation he was in and the situation he finds himself in now. He uses “bestest buds” to describe their old friends because they were all truly close, but their communication fell through once they all went their own ways. The song then transitions over to describing the new people in his life by saying,
All my new friends
We smile at party time
But soon we forget to smile
At anything else
The new people are just “friends” because they don’t really have a genuine, heartfelt connection. The speaker tried to fill the gap of friends with new friends, but those friendships do not last. Smiles are a way to express happiness, and when smiling around people usually means that they make you happy. The speaker only smiles with his new friends during parties, so they don’t really make him happy.
Throughout the song the lines “Won’t you help me sober up?” and “And I want to feel something again” repeat multiple times. The speaker is calling out for help. He realizes that he is in a toxic lifestyle and reflects on the last time he was happy: his childhood. This song is not only a cry for help, it is a reminder to search for your own happiness and that it is okay to ask for help.
Mac Miller’s “What’s the Use” in his album Swimming conveys the artist’s relationship with drugs and alcohol. The rapper died in September of 2018 of a drug overdose at the age of 26; Miller’s song portrays an internal struggle between his mind and what society tells him about the use of drugs. The song creates an experience going inside the mind of someone who is struggling from addiction to drugs.
The song starts with its chorus, being representative of Miller’s want for substances after attempting to stop; Miller’s first lines in his chorus,
You can love it, you can leave it
portrays his own opinion on drugs. Miller believes that you can either love, or leave it, and no in between; this creates a conflict within the addicts head. However, from an outsiders point of view, Miller raps:
They say you’re nothing without it
From the point of view of someone who is not caught in the cycle of addiction, it looks like a personality trait; as if that’s all Miller has to him: his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Later in the chorus, Miller raps:
I just want another minute with it, f–k a little
You can take this two ways in my opinion; 1/ He just wants to get back into it and it doesn’t matter if he just dapples in the act of consuming drugs or 2/ he wants another minute under the influence and thinks, “f–k a little” (bit I want a lot). Both of those ways show the struggle of attempting to halt an addiction to drugs. The push and pull of wanting to consume more and the trying to stop.
In his first verse, Miller says:
I’m so a-bove and beyond/You take drugs to make it up
This line references the use of psychedelics– especially the term “above and beyond”. When Miller says, “You take drugs to make it up”, he means to say that one would need to take hallucinogenics to get to his level. He later says,
Whole lotta “yes I am”/All the way with no exit plan
According to Genius, the “yes I am” is in relation to him saying “yes I am” up for consuming more. The “no exit plan” refers to his way out of addiction however, with no exit plan, he has no way out of it. The continuous metaphors of flight emphasize the effects of drugs that give the user a “high”. I know I didn’t talk a lot about the sound of the song but the actual bass throughout the song help create this melancholy feel. In addition to the actual music of the song, it also creates a full experience that the listen delves into regarding the tough cycle of addiction.
My favorite types of poems are the ones I comprehend and the ones that make me feel the emotions of the speaker. “California Dreamin'” by the Mamas & the Papas checks both of those boxes.
When I was selecting a song for this assignment, I thought about songs that were powerful and emotional. For me, “California Dreamin'” is deeply nostalgic. It reminds me of long family road trips, sitting in the backseat during the long drives to my grandparent’s house.
The song’s lyrics are also nostalgic, with the speaker longing for California on a winter day. The song describes this winter day, explaining that “all the leaves are brown / and the sky is grey.” The imagery of the day depicts the desolate feelings of winter.
The speaker also claims “I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.” A California winter is significantly different from the cold and gray winter described previously. Still, the author’s choice to use the word “safe” illustrates that the speaker’s longing for California isn’t just for the warmth of the sunshine state, but rather for the comfort of California and the comfort of home.
The lyrics repeat several times. The simplicity of the lyrics is comforting, echoing the comfortably nostalgic feelings of California that the speaker craves.
Through powerful imagery, diction, and simple lyrics, “California’ Dreaming” shares a deep longing for the comforts of home. The song’s power in making the listener share the feelings of the speaker is what classifies it as more than simply musical entertainment, but poetic art.
Ed Sheeran’s song “Eraser” from his Divide album, conveys the experience of a struggling musician. The story explains the difficulties that can come with this career choice like family jealousy, financial problems, and the standard that musicians should be happy because they are following their dreams and it was their choice to be ‘impractical.’ This musician has gone on a journey to get to where he is now and in order to cope with all of the stress that comes with it, he used alcohol and drugs to numb and erase all of the pain away.
In the first verse Sheeran sings,
"And when theworld's against me is when I really come alive."
Sheeran uses hyperbole to explain how the speaker feels under all of the pressure he is feeling. Obviously the whole world is not against him, it is an exaggeration, but this shows how stressful the industry can be. I think that the emotions that occur when life is just not going the way you want it to and bad things keep happening is a relatable experience to many. This hyperbole also shows the strength of alcoholism. Stress can spark a desire to drink drink more which explains why the speaker uses it as a coping mechanism. I think that this can also be a use of personification because the eraser becomes alive when there is more stress. When the speaker becomes overwhelmed those are the best times to use the pain eraser.
Sheeran uses a lot of metaphors to describe his journey,
'To be caught up in the trappings of the industry
Show me the locked doors, I'll find another use for the key
And you'll see"
Sheeran compares locked doors to the journey he had to overcome to get to where he is now. When he says “I’ll find another use for the key,” he explains all of the different situations in which he had to find a different way to accomplish his end goal. He could not just unlock the door with a key he would have to kick it down or something in order to take steps positively impacting his career.
In the final chorus Sheeran sings,
"And I'll find comfort in my pain eraser
And I'll find comfort in my pain eraser
And I'll find comfort in my pain eraser
And I'll find comfort in my pain eraser"
Sheeran uses repetition to demonstrate how difficult it was to live with this situation and how much alcohol helped him through it. Since he repeats the line four times, I think it represents how he needed to reassure himself that his life was going to get better and that he would eventually be a successful musician. However for the time being, this was going to be how he got through daily life. Repeating it convinced himself that it was an acceptable action to take part in. The repetition helps tell the story because it shows how he struggled through the experience and how he could only rely on himself and alcohol.
Sheehan uses hyperbole, metaphors, and repetition to convey his story of a drunk and struggling musician who ends up being successful but with the help of no one but himself.
“Big Yellow Taxi”, which appears on Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon, invokes a sense of urgency about preventing environmental degradation. This song was written in the 1960s, around the time that environmental and preservation movements first gained momentum. Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” on a trip to Hawaii. In an interview, she described the parking lot below her hotel window that inspired this song as a “blight on paradise”. This song is said to be the inspiration behind many cities curbing their urban development in favor of greenspace.
In the first verse, Mitchell sings:
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot
Mitchell critiques society’s tendency to replace undeveloped land with the asphalt and buildings. The paving of “paradise” represents the degradation of nature for commercialization. Describing the land as paradise stresses its natural beauty, whereas the mention of the pink hotel and the “swingin’ hot spot” communicate artificiality.
Mitchell continues to express her environmental concerns when she sings:
They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em
She argues not only for the protection of the environment, but also against capitalism. Mitchell’s jab at a “tree museum” is in reference to Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants. She uses the irony of this situation to illustrate a very real and imminent problem.
Through both the chorus and the final verse, Mitchell strays from her environmental call to action and political stances with a personal connection, leaving the song up for more than one interpretation:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
Late last night, I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi took away my old man
By describing the loss of either a lover or a father, she relates environmental issues to other genuine concerns of human beings. She illustrates that the loss of a loved one and the loss of a natural environment are actually very similar. She makes the issue more identifiable and relatable to those who do not believe they are directly impacted by loss of nature. Through her admiration of nature, criticism of capitalistic society, and personal loss, Joni Mitchell communicates to listeners that everyone should be concerned about the environment because everyone has something at stake. This song is nothing less than a poem because of because of how her convincing diction romanticizes environmentalism and her personal connections and experiences leave for open-endedness.
Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love” has been with me for a long time now. From the first time I let this song fill my ears, Florence’s heart-wrenching words and explosive tone have taken me to a completely different world. It is both powerful and sentimental, beautiful and tragic. Out of all the songs I have listened to, this one is the closest to poetry.
The very first lines of the song are:
A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes
I screamed aloud, as it tore through them
And now it’s left me blind
Here, Florence Welch is describing how she was completely blinded by her love for this individual. Using several elegantly crafted metaphors, Welch compares her blindness by love to a star that fell from her love’s heart and right into her eyes. The metaphors help to build an image of not only the experience, but of the feeling. This is one of the fundamental qualities of poetry.
In the second verse, Welch sings:
And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat
I tried to find the sound
But then it stopped, till I was in the darkness
So darkness I became
In this stanza, Welch is illustrating her feelings of depression and hopelessness that her relationship has led her to. She spent so long in the dark searching for love, that when her love eventually left her, she was still stuck there. The repetition of the word “darkness” emphasises her feelings of despair. The repetition of words in this way is a key characteristic of poetry that I have seen in many other famous works.
In a heart-wrenching bridge, Welch sings:
I took the stars from our eyes, and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back
Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you
In contrast to Welch’s previous lines that describe feelings of blindness and despair, this stanza holds a spark of hopefulness in it. This is the turning part of the poem, where she decides that she will love this individual, despite the darkness that he has pulled her into. She realizes that he is just as lost as she is, and she will be there with him, in the darkest of times. Like in previous stanzas, this bridge represents the climax of an experience, and tells the story right at its core. That is a key element of poetry.
Finally, in a beautifully powerful chorus, Welch sings:
The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart
This chorus is arguably the most powerful stanza in the entire song. It elegantly describes her feelings of being left in despair and depression from a relationship but wanting to stay in that relationship nevertheless. By comparing her emotions to various interstellar forces all throughout the song, Welch recounts her experience in a way that people will understand. Unlike simple stories, or artless information, experiences and emotions are harder to explain. That is why Welch’s use of understandable analogies is truly helpful to the reader of the poem.
All in all, I feel that this song is a true example of poetry. The stunning diction, rich metaphors, and powerful structure all contribute to the poetic element of this song. “Cosmic Love” illustrates not only a story, but an experience.
Ever since 1965, the Grateful Dead has been producing revolutionary music and shaping the way rock is perceived. Out of the 317 cover songs created and the story’s they tell, the song “Brown Eyed Women“, from the album Europe ’72 is poetic in every sense. This song is a little special for a variety of reasons, “Brown-Eyed Women was never recorded on a studio album, but it was included on the live album Europe ‘72 and was played at 340 concerts. The song was first performed on August 23, 1971 at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago”(genius.com). Additionally, “Brown Eyed Women” displays a story, and through a variety of literary techniques, it draws the listener in. As the song begins, the listener is presented with a story about a man named Jack Jones. The lyrics follow:
Gone are the days when the ox fall down
Take up the yoke and plow the fields around
Gone are the days when the ladies said “Please
Gentle Jack Jones, won’t you come to me”
Overall, the song tells a story in era of the Great depression. As the song begins to flow, the listener is brought to a time were the focus character, Jack Jones is now old. As the songs states, “when the ox fall down”, this is a representation of the fall of the mischief in his early life. As the song progresses so does time and Jacks life. As life continues, rough times of the Great Depression kick in and Jack is in a financial crisis, the lyrics write:
The bottle was dusty, but the liquor was clean
Sound of the thunder with the rain pourin’ down
And it looks like the old man’s gettin’ on
While in the midst of the prohibition and the Great depression, Jack goes to the streets to make a buck off of liquor. As the lines include “Sound of the thunder” the thunder shows of Jacks situation and how bad things keep falling. Following this, poor Jack is hit with another crisis. The song writes:
Delilah Jones was the mother of twins
Two times over, and the rest were sins
All in all, Jack Jones loses his wife Delilah. Following her death, Jack becomes depressed and the relationship with his twin sons becomes poor. As the lyrics state, “the rest were sins” the “sins” in the line represents the falling relationship with the rest of his family. Overall, many of the Grateful Dead’s songs tell stories. Through these stories, the diction and syntax deliver powerful messages and add meaning to each story.
Most of Kanye West’s songs would be great options for this prompt, and the one I chose just happens to be one of my favorites at the moment. “Homecoming” from Kanye’s Graduation album, may be part of the greatest collection of songs on a single record.
One of Kanye’s greatest strengths as a rapper or a poet, is the way he can manipulate words. He can use the same word multiple times, in one line after another, and they can possess completely different meanings.
But, my name is Windy and I like to blow trees” And from that point I never blow her off
I guess that’s why I’m here and I can’t come back home And guess when I heard that? When I was back home
If that isn’t poetic, then I don’t know what is.
Throughout the song, Kanye chooses to develop a story about his relationship with a childhood friend. He compares their relationship to aspects of the city of Chicago to develop a nostalgic tone.
But, my name is Windy and I like to blow trees
And when I grew up she showed me how to go downtown
Knew I was gang affiliated, got on TV and told on me
I guess that’s why last winter she got so cold on me
All of these lines possess notable aspects of Chicago “Windy”, “downtown”, “gang affiliated”, and “winter”. In order to put the listener in his shoes, to appreciate the nostalgic feeling he gets when he thinks about the girl and his hometown. He is trying to get listeners to think about their home town so that they can understand what he feels when he thinks about this girl.
The job of a poet is to give new experiences to audiences. And since Kanye is obviously not utilizing prose, it is safe to say that his music is poetry.
The song “Take Me to Church” By Hozier is part of his Take Me to Church E.P. The song was inspired by the oppresion of the LGBTQ community in Russia. At the time there were anti-gay propaganda laws passed in parliament that suppressed the LGBTQ community for expressing their natural rights in public. In fact, parliament upheld a public display of homosexuality to the same severity of beastiality and pedophelia. As a nation, Russia felt the need to “protect” the children from non-traditional sexuality. Therefore, there was a vast array of attacks by neo nazi gangs.
Hozier’s song focuses on the expression of one’s sexuality and how religious organizations advocate for the suppression of such a natural act. In fact, through the song Hozier expresses that he feels closer to god through sexual acts rather than abiding to organizations or policies that value prejudice.
Towards the beginning of the song, as Hozier introduces the disapproval of the Christian church. He follows this by repeating the statement “I was born sick.” This figurative sickness is mentioned in order to establish the hateful attitude of the church towards the LGBT community. According to the Christian church it is seen as a sin. However, as Hozier repeats the line a second time he states, “I was born sick, but I love it.” He repeats the line in such a way to suggest that he will not support organizations that discriminate the natural act of expressing love for others.
This then leads to the chorus of the song that reads as follows:
“A-amen, amen, amen
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins, and you can sharpen your knife”
Through the chorus, Hozier uses juxtaposing diction and overall develops his argument through such a contrast. First, the juxtaposing diction is evident especially in the line “I’ll tell you my sins, and you can sharpen your knife.” By structuring the language in such a manner, he continues to develop the idea of oppression. If someone apart of the LGBT community were to express their feelings to the church, they would be faced with immense resentment and possibly violence, as seen through the metaphor of the knife. The whole point of the song is for Hozier to express his disapproval of these oppressive institutions. Therefore, by writing the chorus in a format that sarcastically worships the church, he show the negative effects that would be imposed on someone like him.
Towards the end, Hozier speaks more about the liberation he has found in expressing his identity and loving who he wants. Specifically he states:
“There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin.
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene.
Only then I am human”
Through speaking about an “earthly scene,” Hozier shows that the church would consider homosexual intercourse a sin, however, he sees it as an act of liberation. He uses this portion of the song to sum up his argument. Faced with such hateful events in places like Russia, that don’t allow for expression of natural human acts, he explains how truly satisfying it is to love. Expressing one’s natural human rights and love for another is far more fruitful than worshiping an harsh institution.
“Obsessions” is the debut single of singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis, formerly known by the stage name Marina and the Diamonds and currently known by the stage name MARINA. It also appears on her debut album, The Family Jewels. In the song, a speaker, who seems to suffer symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), compares the impact a toxic romantic partner has on her life to the impact her own disordered thoughts have on it. By keeping the line between the demands of the speaker’s partner and the demands of the speaker’s own obsessive thoughts ambiguous through various literary techniques such as shifting point of view and diction with multiple connotations, the song explores how an unstable mental state and an unstable romantic relationship can feed into each other.
The song begins by setting the occasion: the speaker waking up in the morning after a night spent with a romantic partner. The singing is soft, slow, and deceptively gentle as the speaker describes the moment: “Sunday, wake up, give me a cigarette/Last night’s love affair is looking vulnerable in my bed/Silk sheet, blue dawn, Colgate, tongue warm.” However, it quickly slips into a much more rapid tempo as Diamandis drops the pitch of her voice significantly, as if to imitate a male one, and sings, “Won’t you quit your crying? I can’t sleep.” In this line, the point of view of the song seems to shift briefly to that of the original speaker’s male partner and the occasion seems to flash back to the previous night, as the original speaker is crying and her angry partner displays no sympathy. While some of the prior lyrics hinted at the issues to come later in the song, this line is the first one in which the audience realizes that the relationship in the song is one characterized by conflict and unhappiness. This becomes absolutely clear in the next line, which is back in Diamandis’ normal voice, the voice of the original and primary speaker: “One minute I’m a little sweetheart/And next minute you are an absolute creep.”
In the next verse (I’ll come back to the chorus later), with the toxic, hot-and-cold nature of the relationship established, the song begins to explore the mental instability of the speaker. With an increasingly frenzied pace and repetition of harsh consonant sounds, the song describes the speaker going to a grocery store and being unable to pick out a box of crackers because she is so paranoid that there might be something wrong with one of them:
Supermarket, oh what packet of crackers to pick?
They’re all the same, one brand, one name, but really they’re not
Look, look, just choose something quick
People are staring, time ticker-quicking
Skin is on fire; just choose something, something, something
In this verse, the panic of the speaker is conveyed through the repetition of harsh consonant sounds, especially the “k” sound (as in supermarket, packet, crackers, pick, look, quick, ticker-quicking, skin). These sounds heighten tension by being so abrupt, almost evoking through their sharp yet gutteral sound the noise of somebody choking, as if the speaker is struggling to breathe smoothly. Words are repeated as well (particularly “look” and “something”), intensifying the sense of the speaker being “stuck” and unable to move on enough to even find new words, let alone take action and choose a box of crackers. This verse poignantly conveys the extent to which the speaker is debilitated by irrational and anxious thoughts.
Once the audience is aware of the two main conflicts in the song, the unhealthy romantic relationship and the speaker’s unstable mental state, it becomes clear how these issues play into each other. One way in which the song demonstrates this is through multilayered diction. For example, there is a great deal of diction that connotes common symptoms of OCD, such as a fear of germs and contamination. This diction is often used in reference to the speaker’s romantic partner, giving the impression that the speaker’s partner is the source of many of her intrusive, unpleasant thoughts. In the first chorus, the speaker says, “I want to wipe out all the sad ideas/That come to me when I am holding you.” The word “wipe” connotes cleaning. Excessive cleaning can be a compulsion for some people with OCD, who may use it to ease negative, fearful thoughts about germs or disease that will not go away. However, the speaker in this song wishes to ease the negative thoughts that are a direct result of her relationship (they appear when, as she says, “I am holding you”–when she is physical contact with her partner). The speaker also uses diction that evokes bugs, germs and disease when referring to her partner, such as “creep,” “sick,” and “weak.” It is almost as if she obsessively fears her partner the way certain people with OCD might obsessively fear germs.
Diction is not the only tool used to show the link between the speaker’s romantic relationship and her mental state. The song also uses imagery and contrast, particularly in the line, “Silk sheet, blue dawn, Colgate, tongue warm.“ In this line, the cool, clean feelings evoked by the beginning section (“silk sheet, blue dawn, Colgate”) contrasts with the squidgy tactile imagery evoked by “tongue warm.” It is as if the crisp cleanness of the beginning of the line is ruined by a messy, human aspect, as symbolized by an actual human body part. Interestingly, it is unclear whether the speaker is referring to the feeling of her own tongue or her partner’s (don’t worry, I’m not going to get too graphic here). It could be either her own issues or the presence of her partner that ruins her desired cleanness and perfection.
This is not the only instance in which the speaker leaves it unclear which of her issues stem from her relationship and which are entirely her own. She also uses diction that connotes germs and illness when referring to her own thoughts without mentioning her partner, such as when she says, “I want to erase every nasty thought/That bugs me every day of every week.” In this line, she admits that her thoughts are “nasty” and “bug” her. These words connote contamination of sorts (germs are gross and “nasty” and can also be referred to as “bugs,” as in a “stomach bug”). However, the speaker does not specify what sort of “nasty” thoughts she is having, only that they bother her and she feels she cannot get away from them (as is made especially obvious by repetition of the word “every”). It is unclear whether or not these thoughts have anything to do with her partner. Likewise, it is unclear whether the speaker’s breakdown in the grocery store in the second verse has anything to do with pressure being put on her by her partner or simply her own issues, as it is ambiguous whether lines such as “Look, look, just choose something quick/People are staring…” are spoken by the primary speaker to herself or her partner to her.
Another way the song uses ambiguity is the fact that the speaker leaves it unclear which party in the relationship–herself or her partner–is more troubled. In the first chorus, she says, “We’ve got obsessions/All you ever think about are sick ideas/Involving me, involving you.” By using the first person plural, the speaker shows that both herself and her partner suffer from upsetting, inescapable thoughts. When she says, “All you ever think about are sick ideas/Involving me, involving you,” she hints that her partner (“you”) may suffer symptoms of OCD as well, particularly constant intrusive thoughts with disturbing sexual or violent content. However, another way this line could be interpreted is the speaker is fearful that her partner will harm her in some way, an interpretation supported by when she calls him a “creep” earlier in the song.
One final set of lines that heightens the ambiguity of the song is when the speaker says, “Can’t let your cold heart be free/When you act like you’ve got an OCD.” In this line, it is unclear whether she is talking to herself or to her partner, as both of them seem to have issues letting go of control and letting their hearts be “free.” However, it interests me that she says whoever she is speaking to acts “like they have an OCD,” suggesting they do not actually suffer from OCD, they merely act like they do. This could be interpreted to mean that the people in the song would be mentally healthy if not for the toxic relationship they are in. However, it is also true that there are a wide range of mental disorders and even non-disordered patterns of thinking that share some similarities to aspects of OCD, and the fact that the speaker and her partner have obsessive thoughts does not mean they have actual OCD. So they might have issues completely outside of the relationship as well, just not clinically diagnosed OCD.
Overall, it is clear that the primary speaker in the song has mental health issues of her own, but it is also clear that her relationship is an unhappy one. The song keeps it purposefully ambiguous the extent to which the relationship is exacerbating her issues and the extent to which her poor mental health is harming her relationship. I believe this is on purpose, as these lines are not always so clear in real life either. Our relationships, if toxic, can hurt us, but our own personal issues can also contribute to the toxicity of those relationships.
The song “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake is from his premier album James Blake. The speaker of the song seems to be a heartbroken person who is trying to understand and analyze why his audience does not fully love him. The audience is the person the speaker is most likely in love with. The song is very self explanatory. It is extremely concise with only three verses that detail how limited his audience’s love truly is.
The song highlights just how truly hopeless the speaker seems to be. Although, the song is three verses they are made up of the same 5 lines, which are:
There’s a limit to your love
Like a waterfall in slow motion
Like a map with no ocean
So carelessly there, is it truth or dare
There’s a limit to your care
The combination and repetition of the verses reinforces the feeling of hopelessness the speaker feels. You can tell through the lyrics that they are frustrated their audience does not care so deeply for them.
Of the 5 repeated lines, two of them utilize similes. “like a waterfall in slow motion” and “like a map with no ocean.” The careful choice of metaphor clearly depicts how their audience’s love is not complete. Waterfalls are loud and fast and a waterfall in slow motion would hardly be a waterfall at all. A map without an ocean would hardly be complete and lead one to be confused if they were trying to use a map to direct themselves or find an area. The metaphors show how lacking the love is the speaker is describing.
The speaker also utilizes what I would call “rolling diction” (which is a term I just made up). The L sounds that are used repetitively in “limit, love, carelessly, slow, waterfall and like” quite literally roll off the tongue. The contrast in the softness of the L sound and the cutting tone of hopelessness portrayed in the actual meaning of the words displays just how complex the speaker feels. Their audience has no love for them, but they compare it so such beautiful things but they are still trying to figure out the true depth of this limited love.