The Argotist Online
1988 to 1996, Gerald Schwartz was a member of Solomons Ramada. He's currently in
Faking Trains, as well as collaborating with Damian Catera, Steve Swell, Ras
Moshe, Roy Campbell and William Parker. Schwartz, who studied poetry with
Irish-American poet John Montague, as well as with Russian Emigre Joseph Brodsky,
is the author of Only Others Are: Poems (Legible Press, 2003).
Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
Yes, since most of what I write is in the tradition of prayer, elegy, litany, or
the desire for sincerity. Poetry and lyrics, one in the same—there's no
telling them apart, since I see them both as measures destined for the soul. In
writing for Solomons Ramada, and later for Faking Trains, I have tried in my way
to enact these poems as lyrics in a quickening tale—lyric structure as
Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?
For my work, rhyme is rare, since, in trying to work with vernaculars and
simulations of conversation (or at least
would be too killing a cage to be locked in. Have to follow the rhythm of
Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as
clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or
that songs can also be like free verse?
I take my cue from Ole' R. W. Emerson and trust the worthier impulses, since
this is how I can best insure my writing and its performance a fidelity—each
and every time it's expressed. I find I find the piece's "beliefs"
through its writing. In that way, I think it's a lot like water-witching,
divining for water.
When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any
connection to the music you enjoyed?
Early on, say about age 12 or 13, (this would put me in the early seventies)
when I first read Wm. Burroughs not as much as prose but as poetry, and then
reading further (in a column he had in Crawdaddy mag) about his
originated along with Bryon Gysin, as I actually listened to Bowie's Diamond
Dogs, realizing the production of the text was the same! Awakening! One of
the first, contributing to my early apprenticeship.
Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your
anything that makes the stories actual, from Thomas Campion's solid lyrics to
Sidney Lanier's epic "cantata" poems to George Bowering's feltschrifts—anything
at all that makes me say—“Damn, I know this, I know it!" It is the
effect anyone who writes would hope for. This is what I mean by sincerity, the
kind I spoke of in my first answer.
Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?
Songs will always be more popular because of their presentation—they're
delivered with a "drive" (music) over a "P. A. system".
Songs also win over more because of their attention to silences and gaps and
stillness, and simultaneity.
© Gerald Schwartz