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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  


Vanessa Murray


Lizzie Nunnery  


Judith Owen


   Brendan Quinn   




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