Lyrics and Poetry

I have long argued that poetry, in the rarified notion of poetry has been dead for a while. Adorno wasn’t right, but his question was pointed – how can you write poetry after Auschwitz? I think Dissanayake nailed it when she said that Art is a way of saying (this) is Special, and whatever it is requires special attention. So, from this we can see that paint on a surface isn’t just colouring, it’s a Painting. A lump of toasted clay isn’t just a lump, it’s Sculpture. And a collection of words isn’t just text, it’s Poetry. It’s something “else”. So, when we have the Holocaust, it is hard to maintain a sense of the poetic, and I would argue, poetry has suffered greatly since the war.
However, people need “meaning” in their lives, and in a secular society, they turn to the Aesthetic to do the job that religion previously provided. Art wasn’t designed for that heavy burden – it was just a way of focusing attention. So it failed at that, and the proof is the collapse of contemporary art into the quivering heap of marketing and bluff it has largely (but not entirely) become. But the inner search and striving continues, so people look at the things around them and derive meaning. And that is how popular music lyrics took on the mantle of the Poetic. I would suggest Leonard Cohen and David Sylvian are prime examples of this as well.

When Byron walked into a party, people would hush (OMG! It’s it’s BYRON! He’s a POET!!!!) Now saying you’re a poet will get you a cup of coffee if you have $2. No one cares. But people do care about the soundtracks to their lives, and the words they live by are the lyrics to those songs….


About misterwarwick

I am an Associate Professor of Media Theory, Sound Synthesis, Audio Production, and "Digital Things". I am very much involved with issues of Archives, Access To Knowledge, and the pathetic predicament collectively understood as "Civilisation". I am also a composer of electronic music and I have an online music program called "Something Completely Different". I also like to play with digital imaging. I live in Toronto. It's a nice place.
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