We are at the end of April now, and so naturally, National Poetry Month is simultaneously wrapping up. Apart from occasional haikus and features about various poets, for whatever reason, there hasn’t been a lot regarding this month-long celebration that has popped up on my radar. Whether that be because of everything that’s been going on for me this month, the political climate, or something else entirely, I don’t know. However, I do want to take a minute to appreciate that value of this month’s focus, and link it to its unique relationship with another medium with a kindred spirit: music.
It’s understandable why the two would go hand-in-hand. For songs and raps, poetry is often an essence to well-crafted lyrics, for the approach and the writing style is quite similar. They both contain a rhythm to them that is to be respected, as the words weave in, out, and around them. That’s why if a songwriter or lyricist talks about how such-and-such song was born out of poem first, it really is no surprise. It makes perfect sense.
I’ve mentioned before how I had collaborated with a friend from college on a trilogy of art songs he’s been working on. I had talked about how the songs have their lyrics deriving from poems penned by Filipino writers; the first two were written by two men in the early 20th century and I was brought on to write the third one. The project is currently on hold, so I’ve yet to hear the final version of it all. However, the fact that poetry is even being included in this music composition project seems quite natural.
Sometimes though, poetry has a way of inspiring songs that don’t necessarily have lyrics. Sometimes, poetry is substantiating enough to inspire an instrumental alone. A unique aspect about poetry is that because it’s stylistically so different from writing poems, that it makes a different impression on the eyes of the reader or the ears of a listener. Poetry gives just enough of an impression to not so much give however much information, but rather to gracefully wander the consciousness with what it has to say in the most direct yet indirect way possible. Same can be said of instrumental music as well; depending on the composition, you may know exactly what the song is trying to convey, whereas other times, not so much.
Just to give an example, a few days ago, I learned how Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” was inspired by a poem of the same name that was written by French poet Paul Verlaine. At times, the poem is quite joyous, whereas other lines reek of melancholy. It’s been a while since I’ve analyzed poetry in-depth, but from my quick impression of it is all that is good is only temporary, so live it up by the light of the moon. This discovery of a poem inspiring Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is quite moving for me; especially since the song was a favorite of my great aunt’s to play on the piano.
As much as I’m fascinated by how poetry can transform into or inspire music (whether lyrically or instrumentally), I’m also wowed whenever it goes the other way around; when music transforms into or inspires poetry. It just goes to show that it’s not just a one-way street, as art does have that effect on other forms. While it can be easy to dismiss that almost anything can inspire a poem, music as an advantage with the kindred spirit; again going back to the lyrical, rhythmic flow they both share.
Last week was the one-year anniversary since Prince passed away. I had written a poem in honor of him, and it incorporated both song titles and echoed verses from some of his hits. It was a way of acknowledging his missing presence, through both his words and mine. It only made sense to me to be influenced by the artist who has been so dearly missed.
Music has a funny way of working when warped in with poetry. Poetry can serve as the foundation for music, inspire music, or even be inspired by music. They share a kindred spirit that’s easy enough to understand when you really think about it. As National Poetry Month bows out, I hope to seek or create instances similar to the kinds I had described occur.
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Also, if you’re in the Bay Area, tonight is the very last performance of Bindlestiff Studio’s production of “The Geek Show.” If you’re thinking of going, don’t wait around too much longer. Tickets can be bought here.