Is music poetry?Is American Music of the 1960s poetry?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Music may not be poetry, but lyrics certainly can be, especially many of those of the 1960s, the heyday of singer-songwriters.

Poetry can be defined as "condense, intense, experience."  One 1960s era song that combines these three aspects (as well as adhering to a rhyme scheme) is "Me and Bobby McGee," performed by Janis Joplin and written by Kris Kristofferson.  Here's a couple of stanzas:

Busted flat in Baton Rouge,

Waitin' for a train,

And I'm feelin' near as faded as my jeans.

Bobby thumbed a diesel down just before it rained.

Wrote a song and went to New Orleans.


Freedom's just another word for nothin left to lose,

And nothin' aint worth nothin' but its free,

Feelin' good was easy, lord, when Bobby sang the


Good enough for me and Bobby McGee. 

And buddy, that was good enough for me.

I'm sure many others out there can offer their opinions on how music from America in the 1960s fits the criteria of "poetry." 

hollyboo eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Definitely.  Arguably, I think that music is a more effective form of poetry if you decide to be persuassive when reading or writing poems.  When we study lyric poetry as we listen to music, the music serves as an additional rhetorical device.  It alters the tone and the mood-- our emotions as we read.  

 My students study music lyrics/lyric poetry every Friday.  I call their analysis "music journals."  They annotate the lyrics for their own thoughts, emotions, questions, as well as for figurative language and imagery.  I find that they are much more participatory when we listen and/or watch (music video) a poem, than when we just read it.  I most likely get this reaction because more of their senses are being triggered and therefore they are much more engaged.  

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that any music constitutes as poetry, and certainly the music of the 1960's would fit this description.  Analyzing American music of the 1960's is how I end up teaching this decade.  Simon and Garfunkel, Kris Kristofferson (already mentioned), The Doors, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez are but a few of the individuals that can constitute as "poets."  This doesn't even scratch the surface.  Country music and the sound of Motown all can provide excellent poetic analysis, as well as historical progression.  There can also be some wonderful discussions about the nature of social justice and equity using these works.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, all songs are poetry--that's what lyric poetry is. When you talk about the music of the 1960s, what comes to my mind is folk music, which certainly is poetry set to music. Carole King was even able to write beautiful poems and set them to pop music. Don't you feel like you're listening to a bard telling a story when you hear Aretha Franklin sing "You make me feel like a natural woman"? And James Taylor--everything he has written is poetry. Even John Denver's lyrics could stand alone as poems without the music.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Music is definitely poetry. Consider what a poem evokes, passion, love, hate, anger, loss, sorrow. Music, even without lyrics can convey the same thing.  

When you add the lyrics, a story emerges from the music. Poetry like music exists to allow for the expression of human emotions and very often, people can connect through music or poetry by understanding a shared feeling that is difficult to express.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lyrics are definitely poetry. An interesting question would be, what is the effect of music on poetry. Listening to a Bob Dylan song is distinctly different to reading the lyrics. How does the musical rhythm, and the timbre of the voice effect the tone and meaning of the poem itself?

inthekeyofc | Student

Music is sound, organized in specific patterns of time and filled with one or more or more voices that possess a skill at instrumentation.

Music is something that history claims heals a broken heart, based on the history of the first stringed instrument being the harp and the first wind instrument being the flute, both said to be closest to the human spirit.

Music can be violent and heavy like an avalanche of rock and as light the feathers of hummingbird all in the same song.

It can be sweet, proud, marching or still and somber. It can entertain and disgust; make you laugh or make you weep.

The distinction between music and poetry is a voice without words can still sing but, a poem without words is the one that hasn't been written.

This is my best answer to your very good question, at this time.

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American Poetry in the 1960's

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