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The Modern Lyricist as Poet

Updated on June 8, 2009
Jim Morrison, The Doors
Jim Morrison, The Doors
John Keats, Romantic Poet
John Keats, Romantic Poet

Through my college years of studying English Literature, my friends and I were held in thrall of that bard beyond compare, of William Shakespeare, the name that is synonymous with drama and literature like no other. While we debated, researched and analyzed his works endlessly, trying to extract meaning, interpretation and layers within the words, we also realized that this man was a pop artist of his time.

While there was erudition and sophistication in his verses, there was also ribaldry and a coarseness that was there to appeal to the least sophisticated among his audience. For at the zenith of his popularity Shakespeare's plays were performed to royalty and the working class alike; both constituted his adoring public, and it is this catholic appeal of his work that made it endure over the ages.

Also at college I had a dawning conviction that rock musicians like Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and Jim Morrison (The Doors) were perhaps just such poets of our times. The existential angst that I could discern in their music and their lyrics was a reflection of their times; their artistic struggles.

I find many parallels between masters of yesteryear and modern musicians. As John Keats partook of hemlock and opium (Ode to a Nightingale),

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

So also did our modern poets struggle with the demons of their own addictions. As Keats was a brilliant creative life snuffed out in his prime (in his case it was tuberculosis, but also a delusional conviction of being poisoned), so also did Morrison and Cobain meet unfortunately early ends: in the case of Morrison it was drug overdose and in the case of Cobain it was suicide.

A heightened creative sensitivity also being a common trait among these notables, also perhaps made them more vulnerable to depressions, addictions or a feeling of being at dissonance with the world. The focused public gaze that is as much adoration as expectation could, I would imagine be profoundly unsettling. Witness Morrison's sense of aloneness in the iconic Doors track, People are Strange

People are strange, when you're a stranger,
Faces look ugly when you're alone,
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted
Streets are uneven when you're down.

The references to faces come out of the rain and No one remembers your name are perhaps indicators of his mental state and certainly the lines of the song, evidence of his being a modern poet.

I read somewhere that modern Hop-Hop music is about 'knowledge, wisdom and understanding.' And these are surely the constituents of poetry?

This one has some great sketches of Morrison

This is actaully rather clever:

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    • Reena Daruwalla profile image
      Author

      Reena Daruwalla 8 years ago from INDIA

      @Shalini  - And if there was a body of pop poetry that I can really relate to, it would have to be HIndi film lyrics. There is a fitting song for every single emotion that I have ever felt!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Love the lyrics of that Doors number! Yes, if poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, we have some powerful modern songs that belong!

    • Reena Daruwalla profile image
      Author

      Reena Daruwalla 8 years ago from INDIA

      @Writer rider: Amen!

      @Teresa Yes it is after all about the words inst it; beautiful, beautiful language!

      @ earnesthub: I found it hilarious that Keats was lip synching to his own poem.

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      You are right, the video is very clever!

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      I enjoy hearing great song lyrics. Neat hub.

    • profile image

      Writer Rider 8 years ago

      It's time to resurrect the lyrical poet.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 8 years ago from India

      Very true! The mode may change but the sentiments stay the same.