Poetry and Music

Yesterday, I taught a workshop on poetry and music at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. It was a small workshop that was a part of the center’s Fall Writers’ Conference. Since I don’t teach on a regular basis, I really enjoyed the opportunity to be in front of students. Lots of lively conversation set to music! Reminded me of my time teaching poetry classes at Brookline Adult Education long ago.

I am a bit of a poetry snob. I think most songs are bad poems. Put another way, I think they are two separate are forms with the potential for crossover. (Of course, there are exceptions and exceptional songwriter/poets: Dylan, Mitchell, Jay-Z.) And while I have written poems inspired by music, I’ve never put a poem to music or worked with a musician to merge the two. But when poets crossover and push the boundaries of poetry and music, it really is a pleasure for the senses to behold.

In our class, a few questions came up that I thought were good ones to post here on the blog.

  1. How do we define that fine line between songwriting and poetry? What elevates a song to the level of poetry? And the reverse—what makes a poem good enough to be a song?
  2. Which has a better outcome, a poem set to music or a poem written specifically for a piece of music?


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