Poetry in motion

Some day I should write a blog post about titles and how much I hate them. That said, it would probably end up just being a thousand variations of ‘I hate having to think of titles’. I’m not just talking book titles (my three books have the most uninspiring titles in the history of titling), but also short story titles and blog post titles. Gah, Hate them hate them hate them!

Anyway, that’s not what I’m going to talk about today, I’m going to talk about poetry.

Poetry is one of those weird things. On the whole, my feelings towards poetry range from ‘couldn’t give a flying fuck’ to ‘hate it with the passion of a thousand fiery suns’. Poetry is wasted on me. I was forced to read some in secondary school and later on at university when I spent a year in Edinburgh doing English Language, but I pretty much hated every second of analysing the bastard things. I vaguely remember some poem we dismembered which made no fucking sense whatsoever, until you stopped reading it line by line and instead took the second part of one line together with the first half of the line below, and then it suddenly made sense. My overriding thoughts on the matter were ‘So why the fuck didn’t you just write those lines together you fucktard?’

Seriously, poetry is wasted on me. If it’s got proper rhyme and metre I can tolerate it, but when you get to the really convoluted stuff like rondels and sonnets and villanelles and shit like that, I can’t help but wonder why anyone would go to the trouble of coming up with something so unnecessarily complicated. As for modern, rhyme-less and metre-less poetry, the less said about that, the better.

But here’s the weird thing: set poetry to music and it can move me to tears. Well, not quite, but there are certain song lyrics that really punch through to my heart, or my head, or my sense of humour, or whichever emotion is affected by them. Part of that is probably the music itself, which in many cases can give me goosebumps, but there is still the random fact that those lines of words they sing, which like regular poetry have rhyme and metre, are suddenly completely profound and meaningful.

Let’s use an example:

This song is particularly relevant in light of my recent Biblical adventure, because it pretty much sums up how I feel about religion and judgement day in a few easy lines:

The hope of my redemption / is such that I believe that I am free

To confess would bring me no salvation / I alone hold the power to forgive me

And of my acts I will admit I’ve no pretensions / I’ve no regrets for all the things that I have done

My faiths to me are as foundations / none has the right to judge my soul but me

I haven’t had this song for very long, and I only recently actually listened to what he was singing, but when I did it really resonated with me. VNV Nation are very good at doing that anyway, but this song just really hit me in the right spot at the right time.

Ah, but that’s a straightforward expression of someone’s feelings about some matter, I hear you say. Surely if people apply clever poetic trickery in their lyrics, you’ll hate it as much as the next poem?

Well, allow me to refer you to Exhibit B:

(The walls are watching me / but I am watching back)

The notes are writing me / the words are speaking me

The time is spending me / at least in my protected world

The facts are doubting me / the choice is making me

The rules are breaking me / at least in my protected world

And I belong to everyone / content, polite and waiting

I live and die in theory / I’m what the gods believe in

Frankly, it doesn’t make one iota of sense to me, but I love how he’s flipped around fairly common phrases so that they become something a little strange.

What about weird rhyming schemes? Boy, do I have an example for you (and please bear with me through the godawful intro – the rest of the song is really good. Just grit your teeth for the first twenty seconds):

This has got some wicked internal rhyme going:

I’m not sure what I’m looking for anymore / I just know that I’m harder to console

I don’t see who I’m trying to be instead of me / but the key is a question of control

Depeche Mode actually have quite a few songs where they’ve got this internal rhyme thing going on, though this song is the only one that readily springs to mind.

Also, the poetry doesn’t have to be in English. I have a decent grasp of a number of other languages (though I can only claim to be fluent in English and Dutch), so here, have some German:

This is totally a song about internet stalking:

Ich hab’ dich entdeckt in der Datenbank / I’ve discovered you in the databank

Dein Leben geöffnet, bin ganz nah bei dir / Have opened your life, I’m so close to you

Die Gedanken gespeichert, jeder Schritt kontroliert / Saved your thoughts, checked every step

Im Sinn deutscher Ordnung die Welt registriert / Have registered the world in the sense of German order (no, this doesn’t quite make sense to me either)

Anyway, look up the rest if you want, but it’s just a great song.

Conversely, I’ve also gone off songs because I started listening to the lyrics and they were just too rubbish. Unfortunately this happens a lot with bands who sing in English when it’s not their native language. Diorama are much better now, but the song Leaving Hollywood from their first album has a lovely melody, but the lyrics are pretty shite, and sadly it does spoil the song for me.

Let’s move on to another example of a song that manages to say what you might think much better than you can do so yourself:

I’m sorry I can’t bleed for you / the way you want me to

To throw myself against the rocks / the way I used to do

I’m sorry that I can’t prolong / the pain I’ve been put through

I’m sorry, yes I’m sorry, so sorry / but not as sorry as you

Assemblage 23 are very, very good at songs about feelings. Listen to Bi-Polar and it’s an incredibly accurate rendition of what people with bipolar disorder feel like (at least to someone like me with no personal experience of mental disorders). 30KFT is the most heartbreaking song you’ll ever hear about the twin towers attack. Listen to Lullaby, and even if the music doesn’t speak to you, the words are perfect.

I could list many more songs that I think are awesome, but the above ones are the ones I specifically wanted to point out for funky lyrical trickery.

I’ll leave you with this song. Not because the lyrics are especially amazing (though I do love them), but simply because it’s a beautiful, mellow song.


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