The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

by Charlotte Pence (Editor)


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617031915
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Publication date: 11/21/2011
Series: American Made Music Series
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Charlotte Pence, Knoxville, Tennessee, 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 in Branches.

Table of Contents


Introduction xi

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 /

Keith Flynn

106 Country Music Lyrics: Is There Poetry in Those Twangy Rhymes? /

Jill Jones

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 /

David Daniel

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





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