i’m not asking whether or not songwriters are poets. lots of other people love to do that. consider bob dylan, for example. poets.org gets in it (here: bob dylan – “i’m a poet and i know it”). as does cbs news (here: dylan – poet or songwriter). the new york times comes right out & calls dylan “a fierce and uncompromising poet.” and his lyrics used to teach poetry at boston university. the either/or bit seems less brutal when it comes to leonard cohen – maybe because he published poetry before he began recording songs? the crossover even happens in contemporary pop culture: my guilty pleasure this fall has been the show nashville & one of its characters (singer/song-writer scarlett o’connor) claims “humble” beginnings as “just” a poet. but that’s not what i’m talking about.
i’m also not asking if songwriters are inspired by poets, though dylan names his favorite poet as robert burns (who has an albany connection, of course, including a statue in washington park) and that cohen translated federico garcia lorca poem to get lyrics for “take this waltz.” but that’s not what i’m talking about, either.
what i am most interested in is when the words “poems” and “poetry” and “poets” make it into music lyrics. here are some examples from dylan, cohen and the tragically hip (including the video):
“Now they asked me to read a poem
At the sorority sister’s home
I got knocked down and my head was swimmin’
I wound up with the Dean of Women
Yippee ! I’m a poet, and I know it
Hope I don’t blow it.”
(from bob dylan’s “i shall be free no. 10”)
She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said
“You look like the silent type.”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you,
Tangled up in blue.
(bob dylan’s “tangled up in blue”)
You’ll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson
(leonard cohen’s “the future”)
Don’t tell me what the poets are doing
Don’t tell me that they’re talkin’ tough
Don’t tell me that they’re anti-social
Somehow not anti-social enough, all right
(the tragically hip’s “poets”)
help me out? what songs do you know that have poems, poets or poetry as words in their lyrics? bonus points if a poem/poet is named!
Poetry of the Deed – Frank Turner. Great song.