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The Poetics of American Song Lyrics is the first collection of academic essays that regards songs as literature and that identifies intersections between the literary histories of poems and songs. The essays by well-known poets and scholars including Pulitzer Prize winner Claudia Emerson, Peter Guralnick, Adam Bradley, David Kirby, Kevin Young, and many others, locate points of synthesis and separation so as to better understand both genres and their crafts. The essayists share a desire to write on lyrics in a ...
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The Poetics of American Song Lyrics is the first collection of academic essays that regards songs as literature and that identifies intersections between the literary histories of poems and songs. The essays by well-known poets and scholars including Pulitzer Prize winner Claudia Emerson, Peter Guralnick, Adam Bradley, David Kirby, Kevin Young, and many others, locate points of synthesis and separation so as to better understand both genres and their crafts. The essayists share a desire to write on lyrics in a way that moves beyond sociological, historical, and autobiographical approaches and explicates songs in relation to poetics. Unique to this volume, the essays focus not on a single genre but on folk, rap, hip hop, country, rock, indie, soul, and blues.
The first section of the book provides a variety of perspectives on the poetic history and techniques within songs and poems, and the second section focuses on a few prominent American songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Stipe. Through conversational yet in-depth analyses of songs, the essays discuss sonnet forms, dramatic monologues, Modernism, ballads, blues poems, confessionalism, Language poetry, Keatsian odes, unreliable narrators, personas, poetic sequences, rhythm, rhyme, transcription methods, the writing process, and more. While the strategies of explication differ from essay to essay, the nexus of each piece is an unveiling of the poetic history and poetic techniques within songs.
Charlotte Pence of Knoxville, Tennessee, is the author of The Writer's Path: Creative Exercises for Meaningful Essays. She is also the winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition for her poetry chapbook The Branches, the Axe, the Missing.
Part One. Poetic History and Techniques within Poems and Songs
3 The Day Johnny Cash Died / Lamar Alexander
6 Reduced to Rhyme: On Contemporary Doggerel / David Caplan
26 The Sonnet Within the Song: Country Lyrics and the Shakespearean Sonnet
Structure / Charlotte Pence
35 Rap Poetry 101 / Adam Bradley
43 It Don't Mean a Thing: The Blues Mask of Modernism / Kevin Young
75 Gangsta Rap's Heroic Substrata: A Survey of the Evidence / John Paul Hampstead
90 At the Crossroads: The Intersection of Poetry and the Blues /
106 Country Music Lyrics: Is There Poetry in Those Twangy Rhymes? /
122 Similarities and Differences between Song Lyrics and Poetry / Pat Pattison
134 Words and Music: Three Stories / Wyn Cooper
Part Two. Analysis of Twentieth-Century Songwriters
145 The Triumph of Icarus: Sam Cooke and the Creative Spirit / Peter Guralnick
158 The Joe Blow Version / David Kirby
169 A Nobel for Dylan? / Gordon Ball
180 Lyric Impression, Muscle Memory, Emily, and the Jack of Hearts / Claudia Emerson
186 Don Khan and Truck-Driving Wives: Dylan's Fluctuating Lyrics / Ben Yagoda
193 Thoughts on "Me and Bobby McGee" and the Oral and Literary Traditions /
199 The Soup That Could Change the World / Beth Ann Fennelly
203 Laughing in Tune: R.E.M. and the Post-Confessional Lyric / Jeffrey Roessner
212 Sweetness Follows: Michael Stipe, John Keats, and the
Consolations of Time / Eric Reimer
225 Sweeping Up the Jokers: Leonard Cohen's "The Stranger Song" / Brian Howe
232 Facing the Music: The Poetics of Bruce Springsteen / Robert P. McParland
243 Coming into Your Town: Okkervil River's "Black" / Stephen M. Deusner
253 Still Holding at the Seams: Magnolia Electric Co.'s Josephine and the Contemporary
Poetic Sequence / Jesse Graves
261 Not to Oppose Evil: Johnny Cash's Bad Luck Wind / Tony Tost
Posted March 15, 2012
This book is terrific! There's nothing else out there like it. I could see how some might feel like it's a little too academic to take on song lyrics, but I think that's just the point--and they're missing it. Some of the sharpest minds today are writing on a very important topic that has been neglected in the academic world for far too long.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 29, 2012