Monday, October 31, 2011

Lyric Poems Vs. Song Lyrics

I've pondered this topic in print, but today Julia Keller at the Chicago Tribune had a thoughtful column on the odd cultural divide between song lyrics and poetry. Her launching pad is Stephen Sondheim, who doesn't like having his lyrics referred to as poetry.
Poems and songs weren't always on opposite sides of a chasm. Centuries ago, poems and songs were regarded as the same thing. Scholars of antiquity believe that early poetry was chanted or sung rather than recited, and most people listened to poems in crowds instead of reading the poems by themselves in private.
Well, the shift from an oral to a literate culture had a lot do do with that.

I suspect the public's lack of interest was also helped along by modern poetry's stylistic shifts.

Poets rushed off to find
new ways of writing.

But the public, left behind,
found it uninviting.

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