{National Poetry Month} On Lyrics & Finding Poetry

Natalya Lawren c. 2010. listening to her music & writing.

On Lyrics and (Found) Poetry by Natalya Lawren {guest writer} who is rarely without her ipod & headphones and never without her music.

Many poets are often also songwriters. I am unfortunately handicapped in that area, perhaps because songwriting takes a certain structure, but probably mostly because I have a hard-time separating the sound of the music and the lyrics, and I am no composer. Don’t get me wrong– I certainly enjoy music with good lyrics, but it is instruments and the way the song is song that creates the impression.

That doesn’t stop me from merging the two things I love– and what often puts me in the mood to write is the music I listen to.

I forget how long ago it was, but me and L took lyrics out of some of our favorite songs, printed, cut them out, and put them in a hat. We drew several lyrics out and had to organize them to make a poem, and to this day I remember it as an experience that sparked my creative mind and gave me a deeper appreciation for songs and the poetry they can create.

For this National Poetry Month, I’ve taken lyrics from Sisters of Mercy’s “This Corrosion,” Pedro The Lion’s “Arizona,” Sleigh Bells’s “Bitter Rivals,” Bush’s “Prizefighter,” Counting Crows’s “Round Here,” Foo Fighter’s “Stranger Things Have Happened,” Snow Patrol’s “Ways and Means,” Cake’s “Shadow Stabbing,” REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we Know it,” and Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” and came up with the following:


You forgot but I remember this

You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light,

This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear


I had to kill the new sheriff in town,

kill the king with love is the law,

bring down the government.

Sun up now time for you to run.


I’ve been waiting here my whole damn life,

round here we all look the same.

I can change, I can change, I can change.


You look so tired and unhappy,

well that’s the waste of you,

you are not alone dear loneliness,


A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies

He moves his words like a prize fighter

He got loaded then he started throwing punches


so I just had to look away


She must be tired of something,

but we sacrifice like lambs,

they don’t, they don’t speak for us,


No alarms and no surprises

Better get your feet back on the ground

I’ll take the quiet life.

(It’s time I had some time alone)


Lyrics in music are a large part in poetry. I often write poems based on songs, and as just seen, poems with lines taken from songs. The arts are often transient, and writing poetry absorbs many of these categories.

Quite a lot of poems are also written to imitate and create sounds, through assonance, consonance, rhyming, and syntax. These create the essence of the sound of poetry, what makes it so powerful in the oral tradition and in performing even without instrumentation. This speaks not only to what is aloud, but the inner rhythm of the subconscious is what dictates what ‘feels’ right in a piece.

What ‘feels’ right is what strikes a chord (ha, get it?). The more I listen to a song I love, I can discern the words that might’ve been hard to hear before (mumbling, instrumentals, etc), and point to that line and say– yes, this is what makes this song great. I do the same thing with poetry, where the words are just itching for me to read out loud and taste it.

The challenge that comes is to listen to performed poetry, or read it outloud. Notice the rhythms and stand out lines when it comes to sound. And listen to music. At the core of every song is the telling of a story or situation, a description or message. At the core of every song is a poem. At the core of every poem is a song.

Listen. Read. Invent tunes to poems, and poems from tunes. Rewrite lyrics or do what I did and mix and match. Put on those headphones, pull out a poem, notebook and pen, and take some time to interchange your experiences in music and poetry. They are not so far apart.

One thought on “{National Poetry Month} On Lyrics & Finding Poetry

  1. Have you (by chance) ever listened to Imogen Heap? Her lyrics are strikingly poetic to me. It feels like the words are actually the focus and the melodies & other fun sounds are just embellishing and giving you ideas about how to feel about the lyrics. Kind of a different feeling.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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