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poetry&lyric writing- differences and similarities

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Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 44
Topic starter  

Hey guys. I'm new to lyric writing.
To the veterans I wanted to ask- what are the main differences and similiarities between poetry and lyric writing?

I am thinking of taking a poetry writing course. Has anyone tried writing poetry to be better at lyric writing?
Any success?

Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 5381

I just posted this in the SCW, but here it is cut and pasted.

I've been writing a tremendous amount of poetry lately, more than enough to fill a book, (assuming someone would want a book of poetry that sucks). It has lead me to an interesting insight into my songwriting, that even when I start with lyrics I am writing them with a musical idea in mind. Writing poetry doesn't have that musical feel to it. Sure it has meter but it isn't a lyric. For one thing my poetry doesn't repeat themes as obviously as my lyrics. Lyrics are much more concise. I think of poetry as limited only by one's desire to be on point, interesting, good and readable, while lyrics are more like sending a text message, you've only got 160 characters to use, you better make sure every word adds value. Of course good poetry makes every word count, it just seems more so for lyrics IMHO.

I've taken to writing lyrics now with a metronome or drum track playing in the background. It really helps. Even before I did this my best lyrics, for instance One by One, were written with a specific pattern already in my head.

What's the difference? IMHO

A lyric needs to be more concise to fit the song form.
Poetry is for the eyes and lyrics are for the ears, a vast over generalization I know.
Poetry doesn't usually have a bridge or chorus.
Poetry needs to stand on it's own for power and emotion, lyrics have music, volume and tempo
Lyrics usually need to be catchy to stick with the listener

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1468

poetry and lyrics are two different things but to answer the question, i have never tried writing poetry to be better at writing lyrics. but i do think that if you read poetry, as well as read other things in general, it can help you in writing lyrics. i also think that if you take a course in writing poetry it can help you in writing lyrics. but at the same time, if what you want to write is lyrics and only have so much time and money, you probably should take the course in lyric writing.

Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 79

Hmm...I'm certainly not a veteran, a poet, nor a proper lyricist. But I'll give it a go...(and will probably not agree with anyone here).

IMO...lyrics are a type of poetry with a particular structure. If my literature memory doesn't fail me, I believe a major subset of poetry is called Lyric Poetry...characterized by strong meter and rhyming patterns (remember Iambic Pentameter?)that may or may not be set to music. Sonnets and Ballades are both types of lyric poetry. isn't unheard of for poetry to later be set to music, and to great effect...T.S. Eliot anyone? Ring a bell? (re. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats)

But...poetry is much much broader than writing song lyrics, and I would expect that the class will try to touch on the breadth of poetic types and styles.

I would say go for it. A poetry class certainly can't hurt your songwriting. But expect to have to write poems in other styles as well...probably a sonnet, haiku, odes, cinquains, some blank verse, heck...there might even be a limerick (that might even not involve Nantucket!)

At the very least, it will help focus you on structure, and economy of language. Something that this reply certainly lacks!

There are two kinds of people in this world:
Those who think there are two kinds of people in this world, and those who don't

Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 121

Agreed - I would think such classes can only broaden your horizons.

Many songwriters are really poets 'hiding' behind music - Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon - for example are all very powerful lyrically.

Agree poetry has to stand on its own, conversely, pretty basic, sentimental or trite lyrics can be propped up and made acceptable by good music - for example, the Beatles:

I love you yeh, yeh yeh
I love you yeh yeh yeh
I love you yeh yeh yeh yeh yeh
Not exactly poetry!

(Imagine the reaction if I had posted that in response to week 2 excercise :lol: )


“Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.” - Winnie the Pooh