Recently I attended a discussion at a local folk festival looking at the question of whether song lyrics should be considered poetry.
There were two main positions presented. Firstly, that every songwriter is a poet and every song poetry, the question is whether that poetry is any good. The second argument was that not all song lyrics can be considered poetry (Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy for my Shirt’ was sighted here) but some song lyrics undoubtedly are. Notice that neither of these viewpoints suggest that no song lyrics should be considered poetry?
I have encountered this perception of song lyrics in my own experience. In my first year in University I purchased a poetry anthology, which among other poets, included lyrics by Bob Dylan. Take away the name and you would never have questioned that his words belonged with the words of other great poets.
Perhaps not all song lyrics can or should be considered poetry but surely we cannot look at some songs without classifying them as such. Take, for example, a personal favourite; the beautiful lyrics of Passenger in his song ‘The Last Unicorn’ about lost love and dealing with loneliness:
Though we’re walking home we know too well
We are both lost
Another interesting area touched on during the discussion was the division between music and literature. It was suggested that we live in a time obsessed with boxing things, therefore music and literature must be considered separate entities. The question, then, is not whether there are people capable of bridging this divide, Dylan’s receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature surely proves that there are, the questions is whether we, as a consuming public, are ready to accept these artists.
I really hope that we are.
Should song lyrics be considered poetry? A discussion between Marged Tudur and the musician Gai Toms.