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Is it a poem is it a lyric? (1 Viewer)

Olly Buckle

I was unsure about putting this here, thought about critique and advice as I certainly would like to know what people think of the ideas in it, I am not really sure it is all valid.

When people see the lyrics of songs written down they often say "But it is just a poem" and it is true the two have much in common, they are both about expressing emotion in words, so what makes them different?
Well a song is sung and a poem is read, it sounds trite but it is where the difference starts, it means you can go back over a poem and pick things up you missed first time so it can be abstract and subtle in it's form. The song is for here and now, no going back so it needs to be immediate and director you will miss some vital point, also the form needs to be emphasised by the music and work with it or it easily gets lost under it.
In writing terms this means to write a song and not a poem write write in the present, not in the past and be up front and personal rather than abstract and general, of course there are plenty of exceptions, this is art not science, but it is a good rule for beginners, listen to Bob Dylan's first album and it is full of songs that sound like traditional folk and blues, later he flew.
Writing only for your own benefit and about the intensely personal tends to create something inaccessible, a poem, songs are written with the listener in mind and usually express something that is a commonly held emotion or idea, albeit in an original form. If you are writing a poem you can lead your audience gently into the subject, or even mislead them for a while before revealing that you are talking in metaphor for example, songs should grab you by the lapels with the first line and say "Come this way" or the audience will not listen and then later on they are lost. Finally there is the ending, (I enjoyed saying that) Songs need wrapping up, poems can wrap up, like a haiku, or fade out gently, with songs only the music should fade out.
A test for a song? Can you sum it up with well known phrases or sayings? Songs express something every body knows about in an original way, poems tend to express something more personal and individual.

Well, what do you think? Does it make sense?

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
If it doesn't have a tune, it's not a lyric.

(Just to make it confusing...the phrase "lyric poetry")

Another one..."song poem" ... a phrase often used to describe lyrics written in order to be put to music later by somebody else. Don't knock it, Bernie Taupin and Robert Hunter wrote Elton John and The Grateful Dead's songs that way.

Generally a lyric has a tighter meter...and generally rhymes. Unllike the majority of modern poems, which often don't do either.

Olly Buckle

The lyric need not be constructed at the same time as the music, no argument. It's form will, however, be dictated by the fact that it is intended for music, will that imperative be in the form I describe?