Lyrics as PoetryI like to use song lyrics in my poetry unit.  I am looking for ideas for narrative poetry/songs that have a fairly well developed story line.  Can you think of songs that tell a...

Lyrics as Poetry

I like to use song lyrics in my poetry unit.  I am looking for ideas for narrative poetry/songs that have a fairly well developed story line.  Can you think of songs that tell a good story, have a skillful use of poetic devices, and are set to music that kids can relate to?  It seems that 70's and 80's rock (my personal favorite!) just doesn't cut it for them!  I guess I need to branch out into the contemporary stuff, and would love some suggestions. 

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In the Richard Cory Group on this enotes site, there has been question asked which dealt with a comparison/contrast of the poem by Edward Arlington Robinson and the song by Simon and Garfunkle (of the late sixities) entitled "Richard Cory."

It might be an interesting activity to read the poem and listen to the song and discuss.  Also, teachers have posed such questions as "What song do you think represents the theme of ____?

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

All good choices so far.  When I have students bring in lyrics which tell a story I get everything from rap to country.  Whenthey have to explain why their lyrics are poetic, I'm always amazed at how much poetry terminology they know.  A few others, in a blast from the past:  "Ode to Billy Joe," "American Pie," "Billy Don't be a Hero."  Ahhh...good times. 

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I think if you just introduce the idea that poetry is a rhythmic expression of language that your students with a few carefully placed questions would draw the conclusion that music lyrics are poetic. Have them bring in their own examples rather than providing them with your own choices.

morrol's profile pic

morrol | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I allow my students to use lyrics as poetry all the time. Pink Floyd is actually extremely popular. Rap artists work well too. Tu Pac and Ice Cube and Atmosphere. I have also had students write some great analyses of Death Cab for Cutie songs and well as Jason Mraz.

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Also, why not let them bring in their own lyrics and make them do a writing assignment about what makes them poetry (they'd have to explain use of elements, etc.)?  This is an assignment I give my college freshmen and they LOVE it. 

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I love the "Edmund Fitzgerald" song by Gordon Lightfoot (from the 1970's).  I first heard that song as a young child in the mid-70's) and it STILL haunts me to this day.  It is about the mysterious sinking of the large ship.  They still don't know why the ship sank.  Really interesting stuff!

 If you really want to appeal to the kids today, you may have to delve into some Eminem, Jay Z, or Outkast (they, to me, are legitimately GOOD rap artists).

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

You mean Billy Joel's "Piano Man" and Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" don't have any appeal? What about Aerosmith's "Jenny Got a Gun"? I used Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" in a reading class last year, and it seemed to go over well.

That's all I can think of right now. I'll ask my students for suggestions.

smekari's profile pic

smekari | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Lyrics as Poetry

I like to use song lyrics in my poetry unit.  I am looking for ideas for narrative poetry/songs that have a fairly well developed story line.  Can you think of songs that tell a good story, have a skillful use of poetic devices, and are set to music that kids can relate to?  It seems that 70's and 80's rock (my personal favorite!) just doesn't cut it for them!  I guess I need to branch out into the contemporary stuff, and would love some suggestions. 

I also use music in my poetry lessons.  I try to appeal to the idea of Genre, so I choose songs from several decades.  Students seem to respond most to Tupac's, Dear Mama, Eminem's Mockingbird.  Relatively clean.

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