The Argotist Online
Interviews with Songwriters on Songwriting and Poetry
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:
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.
A discussion about song and poetry can be found at the British and Irish Poets List here.
In alphabetical order: