1. Eliemme
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    Eliemme Member

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    Is there a difference between a song and a poem? (other than the music... of course!)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Eliemme, Apr 18, 2013.

    Hi all,

    This is a sort of philosophical questions. I was just wondering wether there is a difference between a song and a poem...

    So is a poem basically just a song without music and viceversa?

    Or there is something distinctive that belongs to songs but not poems and viceversa?


    To me all songs can be poems and all poems can have music potentially added to it... Just curious to know what the others think.
    Thanks
    E
     
  2. MHJr92
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    MHJr92 New Member

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    In my opinion, I think they're closely related but they are not the same.
     
  3. Sargon of Akkad
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    Sargon of Akkad Member

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    Structure. Songs have repeating sections (chorus) to ensure a memorable snippet the person listening to it can remember in future. Poems tend not to have this, because the poem is really a 'nice' way of telling a story.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm both a full time poet and a lyricist, and i mentor/tutor beginners in both arts, so can answer this from decades of writing poetry and lyrics...

    yes, there's a major difference... mainly in structure... a poem can be structured any way the poet wishes, while a lyric has to be written with the fact that it well be set to music and become a 'song' to be sung...

    this means that it can have any/all of the following elements:
    intro
    verses
    chorus
    bridge

    and those elements can be arranged in any number of ways, with some repeated, some slightly changed and repeated, and so on...

    poems are actually more than just 'a nice way of telling a story'... some will have not any 'story' element and only express an emotion, a memory, an opinion, or an image...

    and song lyrics often do tell a story... such as with 'me & bobby mcgee' and 'house of the rising sun'...

    hope this answers your question... love and hugs, maia
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Although, there are a number of traditional formats for songs, music can be set to any piece of poetry or prose. There are many examples of non-traditional formats for songs. I'm not sure one can tell just by reading the words of many songs today if they were ordinarily meant as poetry or song.

    A few examples--poetry or song?

    Harry's House

    Heatwaves on the runway
    As the wheels set down
    He takes his baggage off the carousel
    He takes a taxi into town
    Yellow schools of taxi fishes
    Jonah in a ticking whale
    Caught up at the light in the fishnet windows
    Of Bloomingdale's
    Watching those high fashion girls
    Skinny black models with Raveen curls
    Beauty parlor blondes with credit card eyes
    Looking for the chic and the fancy
    To buy

    He opens up his suitcase
    In the continental suite
    And people twenty stories down
    Colored currents in the street
    A helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof
    Like a dragonfly on a tomb
    And business men in button downs
    Press into conference rooms
    Battalions of paper-minded males
    Talking commodities and sales
    While at home their paper wives
    And paper kids: paper their walls
    To keep their gut reactions hid

    Yellow checkers for the kitchen
    Climbing ivy for the bath
    She is lost in House and Gardens
    He's caught up in Chief of Staff
    He drifts off into the memory
    Of the way she looked in school
    With her body oiled and shining
    At the public swimming pool

    Shining hair and shining skin
    Shining as she reeled him in
    To tell him like she did today
    Just what he could do with Harry's House
    And Harry's take home pay

    Joni Mitchell - http://youtu.be/RgSS2fHbB7g


    Schism

    I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them fall away
    Mildewed and smoldering. Fundamental differing.
    Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers souls in motion
    Disintegrating as it goes testing our communication
    The light that fueled our fire then has burned a hole between us so
    We cannot see to reach an end crippling our communication.

    I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them tumble down
    No fault, none to blame it doesn't mean I don't desire to
    Point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over.
    To bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication

    The poetry that comes from the squaring off between,
    And the circling is worth it.
    Finding beauty in the dissonance.

    There was a time that the pieces fit, but I watched them fall away.
    Mildewed and smoldering, strangled by our coveting
    I've done the math enough to know the dangers of our second guessing
    Doomed to crumble unless we grow, and strengthen our communication.

    Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any
    Sense of compassion
    Between supposed lovers/brothers

    TOOL - http://youtu.be/iamw9OX0DUA


    Mrs. Jesus

    Life lines and suicide crimes
    He found me in a state
    Grabbed my purse and hitched a ride
    With a mrs. Jesus "how you been"
    I've been cruisin' a good invention
    But in some ways
    I don't think it gets any easier
    Your walking on the water
    Bit by far my favourite one
    But now it seems we're drowning
    In a drop of water love
    And even as i'm climbing up the stairs
    I know there's heaven there
    And then empty arms that comes
    With the morning star
    Well, made my bed of
    Cut roses by understanding
    That the cause
    It just comes first
    With my mrs. Jesus
    The gospel changes meaning
    If you follow John or Paul
    And could you ever let it be
    The Mary of it all
    And even as i'm climbing up the stairs
    Well, life lines and suicide crimes
    There's the something every day
    And there's someone always paging
    My mrs. Jesus
    Your walking on the water
    So if you get the Jones at the crossroad
    The personals are great
    If you're my way
    Let me love you mrs. Jesus.

    Tori Amos - http://youtu.be/AKvXaPQPiFQ


    Budapest


    I think she was a middle-distance runner
    (the translation wasn't clear)
    Could be a budding stately hero
    International competition in a year
    She was a good enough reason for a party
    (well, you couldn't keep up on a hard track mile)
    while she ran a perfect circle
    And she wore a perfect smile
    in Budapest... hot night in Budapest.

    We had to cozzy up in the old gymnasium
    dusting off the mandolins and checking on the gear
    She was helping out at the back-stage
    stopping hearts and chilling beer
    Yes, and her legs went on for ever
    Like staring up at infinity
    through a wisp of cotton panty
    along a skin of satin sea
    Hot night in Budapest.

    You could cut the heat, peel it back with the wrong side of a knife
    Feel it blowing from the sidefills. Feel like you were playing for your life
    (if not the money)
    Hot night in Budapest.

    She bent down to fill the ice box
    and stuffed some more warm white wine in
    like some weird unearthly vision
    wearing only T-shirt, pants and skin
    You know, it rippled, just a hint of muscle
    But the boys and me were heading west
    so we left her to the late crew
    and a hot night in Budapest
    It was a hot night in Budapest.

    She didn't speak much English language
    (she didn't speak much anyway)
    She wouldn't make love, but she could make good sandwich
    and she poured sweet wine before we played

    I thought I saw her at the late night restaurant
    She would have sent blue shivers down the wall
    But she didn't grace our table
    In fact, she wasn't there at all
    Yes, and her legs went on forever
    Like staring up at infinity
    Her heart was spinning to the west-lands
    and she didn't care to be
    that night in Budapest
    Hot night in Budapest

    Jethro Tull - http://youtu.be/8iKuHv0imaI


    The Dangerous Kitchen

    If it ain't one thing it's another
    In the middle of the night when you get home
    The bread things are all dry 'n' scratchy
    The meat things: where the cats ate through the paper
    The can things with the sharp little edges
    That can cut your fingers when you're not looking
    The soft little things on the floor that you step on
    They can all be dangerous
    Sometimes the milk can hurt you
    (If you put it on your cereal before you smell
    the plastic container)
    And the stuff in the strainer
    Has a mind of its own
    So be very careful
    In the dangerous kitchen
    When the night time has fallen,
    And the roaches are crawlin'
    In the kitchen of danger
    You can feel like a stranger
    The bananas are black
    They got flies in the back
    And also the chicken
    In the dish with the foil
    Where the cream is all clabbered
    And the salad is frightful
    Your return in the evening
    Can be less than delightful
    You must walk very careful
    You must not lean against it
    It can get on your clothing
    It can follow you in
    As you walk to the bedroom
    And you take all your clothes off
    While you're sleeping
    It crawls off
    It gets in your bed
    It could get on your face then
    It could eat your complexion
    You could die from the danger
    Of the dangerous kitchen

    Who the fuck wants to clean it?
    It's disgusting and dirty
    The sponge on the drainer
    Is stinky and squirty
    If you squeeze it when you wipe up
    What you get on your hands then
    Could un-balance your glands and
    Make you blind or whatever
    In the dangerous kitchen
    At my house tonight

    Frank Zappa - http://youtu.be/v2ny-ubUhow
     
  6. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The same applies to many songs/lyrics (meaning song lyrics, not lyrics). Sure, many follow a steady structure (ABABCB etc) and/or tell a story in a nice way, but some are a lot like, say, free verse poems; sometimes not a single line is repeated, usually the chorus or verse or such is repeated, but not always, and the subjects can range from boy meets girl to expressing an emotion or an idea, or anything, really. Some artists write very experimental lyrics. Bands like Tool and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, e.g, don't always repeat parts/lines in their songs, and often their subjects are less concrete than in, say, Frank Zappa's song, Bobby Brown (although Zappa is also famous for experimenting with song structures and lyrics/vocal parts).

    So I suppose there are certain norms to song lyrics as well as poems, but there's also a lot of crossovers out there, pieces that could just as well be song lyrics or poems (especially since neither art form requires structural elements like rhymes or meters even though both are common in both).

    I have written lyrics to a song that follow the rules of the heroic couplet and poems that have lacked a set meter and end rhymes.
     
  7. Al Stevens
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    Al Stevens Member

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    Some lyrics do not work without the music. "You ain't nothing but a hound dog..."
     
  8. Eliemme
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    Eliemme Member

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    Thank you all. So formally it is about structure but the distinction it is blurred and it is in the mind of the writer... I like music and I studied some piano when I was little, but really I don't know much about this art, so right now I can place my emotions and ideas in words but not in tunes...

    Nee, I'll try and guess later today which is a song and which is a poem!
    Best
    E
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The purpose of associating verse with music imposes certain constraints on the writing, but it isn't an absolute. Music often imposes rhythm more strongly than general poetry. Repetition and rhyme is often tolerated better in combination with music than in standalone poetry, on a phrase or on a stanza basis. However, the two forms are very close, and can overlap considerably.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nee...

    judging from the one i checked out, you are not the author of all of those examples...

    site rules and copyright legality issues make it unacceptable to post others' work without citing the authors...
     
  11. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Well, both poetry and songs often convey a message. In both cases, the words rely upon the reader/listener to make their own meaning from the words as the content of the song or poem is often given through abstract terms. In songs you will have the added benefit of a tune, which can bring about certain emotions and feelings you already have regarding what is being talked about, while a poem might require different ways of constructing a sentence to convey the same meaning.

    But they are very similar though, and I can easily imagine some poems working as lyrics, and vice versa.
     
  12. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    The one you checked out...?

    They are all well written pieces. It's to bad you did not allow yourself see the larger picture and enjoy the process of discovery--for that is one of the pleasures of poetry.

    I had every intention to post the artists names: but that would have rendered the whole point mute. But I see now that this isn't going to work anyway so I'm doing so now.

    It is interesting that in the "What Books Are You Reading" thread people routinely post the title of the books they are reading but not the authors. Seems there too is an outrage against the art of writing that (one would think) would be a cause for correcting, but no...

    It was a trick question. There are all poetry put to music.

    It would be nice if we all could step back from our rigidity and remember that is the love of the art that brings us here. Or is it?
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you quote from copyrighted material, you are required to properly identify the source.

    This site takes intellectual property laws and standards very seriously.

    Note that referring to a creative work without posting an excerpt does not require full attribution, so your comment about "What Books Are You Reading?" is irrelevant.
     
  14. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Still, it's rather irritating, and disrespectful.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is a site rule, as well as a courtesy (at LEAST) to those whose work you are quoting.
     
  16. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    The music is the whole difference. A poem is meant to be recited (or read). A lyric is meant to be sung. The music adds emotion and context to the words.

    It's like asking "what's the difference between a novel and a play - other than the acting?"

    Plays are meant to be acted, not simply read. They come alive when acted.

    Lyrics come alive with the music.

    Check out William Shatner's version of Elton John's "Rocket Man" (youtube) to see how silly a lyric sounds when it is just recited.

    I've written lyrics and posted them for critique on another website but I can't write poetry if my life depended on it. There is a difference but it's really hard to describe - which is probably why I can't write poetry. :)
     
  17. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I've heard William Shatner recite Shakespeare: he made that sound pretty damn silly as well. It's a personal gift of his. His "Lucy in the Sky" brought tears to my eyes.

    And every one of those pieces I posted read just fine as poetry.
     
  18. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    Actually I was writing to the OP, but thanks for your interesting reply.

    The reason those pieces read fine as poetry is because they ARE poetry. No structure. No hook. Just poetry set to music. It's why I've never heard of those songs before. Nobody walks down the street humming poetry.

    Don't get me wrong, I love Joni Mitchell. But it's why "we got to get ourselves back to the garden" is not very poetic but Joni got CS&N (and sometimes Y) a big hit with it. It worked with the music. It's why "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" will never top the charts no matter what the music is, but it's why Paul Revere and the Raiders can sing:

    Kicks just keep gettin' harder to find
    And all your kicks ain't bringin' you peace of mind
    Before you find out it's too late, girl
    You better get straight
    No, but not with kicks
    You just need help, girl



    And get royalty checks for years and years. If they read that at a poety reading, they'd be laughed to scorn.

    Like someone said earlier, there is some crossover, but they're fundamentally different.
     
  19. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Well, there are many like that. And it is sad that some of the best poets of the last 40 years are not taken seriously. Especially seeing how most of the old formats of poetry were song as well as read. It was only in the late 1800's when that began to change. Which is when the "popular" song was invented.
     
  20. gwilson
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    I've had reservations about posting to this thread, because I believe you, Nee, have already convinced yourself that lyrics are poems. They are very poetic lyrics, (and you appear to have great taste in music,) but still, they are lyrics. They're structure identifies them as lyrics. Lyrics are a type of poetry, but they are not poems. If the authors of these lyrics were to use a pseudonym and tried to publish them as poems then they would undoubtedly be rejected, because they are lyrics and not poems. You can't classify them as any known type of poem, but you can classify them as lyrics. They're neither formal (because they do not have a regular meter) nor free verse (because they're line breaks are determined by rhyme and not syntactic closure or enjambment*), they are lyrics.



    *("syntactic closure or enjambment") p.369 A Poet's Guide To Poetry, by Mary Kinzie
     
  21. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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  22. gwilson
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    1. She is not using a pseudonym.
    2. Even she makes a distinction between poems and lyrics according to her book's title.
     
  23. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I didn't say everything she wrote is a poem. Only that some songs are poems with music.

    And I think you'd be interested in the video I posted also.
     
  24. Al Stevens
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    Al Stevens Member

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    Here's the difference:

    You are the promised kiss of springtime
    That makes the lonely winter seem long.
    You are the breathless hush of evening
    That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.

    -- Oscar Hammerstein

    Oh Barbara Ann take my hand
    (Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
    Barbara Ann
    (Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann)
    You got me rockin' and a rollin'
    Rockin' and a reelin' Barbara Ann
    Bar bar bar bar Barbar Ann

    -- Fred Fassert
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    al...
    while the last line of that verse from hammerstein's classic lyric works well for the music jerome kern set it to [or that oscar was writing it to], it does not work well for a poem, since the meter is a bit off, poetically [3 lines of 9 syllables, followed by 11]... so that's a good example of the difference between poetry and lyrics as well, though you don't seem to have meant it to be...

    the fassert lyric is just a much more obvious example...
     

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