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Interviews with Songwriters on Songwriting and Poetry

 

 

The following interviews with singer/songwriters are the result of a suggestion made to me by poet and singer/songwriter Jake Berry who has for many years practised both arts. Jake supplied three of the six interview questions, and of the relationship between songs and poems writes:

 

Poetry, especially in the 20th century, became a victim of specialization. That was the trend – the notion that in order for someone to be good in a discipline one needed to devote all his or her time to a specific aspect of it. This makes sense in the sciences because the more we know the broader the area of study becomes and there is simply not enough time to know everything about all the sciences. Following the lead of the sciences, the whole of Western culture became specialized. This was not necessary. I think we are beginning to recover from that misstep. The sciences are discovering that it is beneficial if all the sciences collaborate to move toward a more comprehensive picture of what we know and don’t know. Specialization was essential as a way of moving away from the ancient centralizations like monarchy, a single dominant religion and so forth. And specialization should continue, but in conversation the arts can lead and are leading this development – not toward an elimination of specialties, but conversation and collaboration.

 

This specialisation may be responsible for what some see as poetry’s innate inability to elicit as deep an emotional response as song is able to do. This is reflected in some of the interviewees’ answers, where a common theme is that of the song as being a better delivery system for poetic content to have an effect on an audience emotionally than poetry is. Similarly, a possible reason as to why poetry is no longer popular is that song has replaced its function; this has been especially the case since the mid-1960s. What we now call “poetry” may one day come to be recognised as largely a specialised and hermetic form of language, discussed and valued within academia, but with little relevance (either emotionally or artistically) to the broader culture. Whether this is categorically the case or not cannot be debated here, but it is worth thinking about, and hopefully may spark such a debate elsewhere.

 

 

    In alphabetical order:

 

 

    Nancy Ames  

 

 Perla Batalla

 

Jake Berry

 

Jeff Berry

 

Pete Brown

 

    Neil Campbell      

 

Dave Cartwright

   

Julie Christensen

 

 Phillip Henry Christopher

 

   Kyla Clay-Fox  

 

Barbara Dickson

 

Chris Difford

 

   Carol Decker  

 

Van Eaton

 

Kate Fagan

   

Julie Felix

 

    Adam Fieled    

 

Jack Foley

 

Kate Garner

 

  Andy Gricevich  

 

Heather Haley

 

Steve Harley  

 

Hayley Hutchinson

 

Jennifer John 

 

Tam Lin

 

Meriel Malone

 

Charlotte Martin 

 

Natalie McCool  

 

Ralph McTell  

 

Lizzie Nunnery  

 

Judith Owen

 

   Brendan Quinn   

 

 Ragz  

 

Grace Read

 

Eddi Reader

   

Keith Reid  

 

Lucy Rose

 

Michael Rothenberg

 

  Bariane Louise Rowlands   

 

Kate Rusby

 

  Max Russell     

 

Willy Russell

 

Gerald Schwartz

 

Helen Seymour

 

Beck Siàn

 

Chris Stroffolino  

 

Alison Sudol

 

Linda Thompson

 

Richard Thompson

 

Martha Tilston

 

Stuart Todd

 

Eric Unger

 

   Pietra Wexstun  

 

Rachael Wright