Paul Muldoon said, "I've been asked a lot recently about the...

Paul Muldoon said, "I've been asked a lot recently about the difference between writing poems and writing song lyrics and have disappointed a few people, including myself, by reminding them that there may not be all that much in the way of difference"

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Poetry is music and music is poetry. I love the look on students' faces when I bring in copies of popular music, and after listening to these lyrics being played and discussing what they could mean and how the students interpret them, I tell students we just had a discussion on poetry. They're always amazed to find out that the lyrics to songs they've known by heart for years are actually poems.

It's not just students who feel poetry resides in this unattainable realm; we window shop poems but we don't feel we can ever have an actual relationship with poetry. Music however is something almost everyone relates to. We all have our favorite songs; the songs we turn do when we are feeling down, the songs we rely on to get out moods up, and the songs that take us back to a moment in time we never want to forget.

Three literary devices that turn poetry into music are meter, rhyme, and repetition.

Meter: Also referred to as rhythm, meter relates to the number of beats in a line of verse. You may be familiar with the term, iambic pentameter , which was made popular by Shakespeare. Iambic relates to the "da-dum" sound similar to a heartbeat. When reading a line of verse, a stress is placed on every other syllable, starting with the second syllable. For example:

Shall I com pare thee to a sum mer's day

Pentameter simply means there are five (pent) feet of poetic meter. In the example above, there are five "da-dum's."

Rhyme: Repeating of sounds is pleasing to the human ear. In poetry and music, rhyme can appear at the end of lines known as end rhyme or in the middle of a single line verse known as internal rhyme.

An example of end rhyme from Blake's "The Tyger":

Tyger! Tyger! burningbright

In the forests of thenight

An example of internal rhyme can be seen in the following line from Poe's "The Raven""

One upon a midnightdreary, while I pondered, weak andweary

Repetition: Repeating words, phrases, or even entire lines is a popular way of creating a "chorus" in a poem. Consider the following stanza from Jane Kenyon's "Let Evening Come":

Letthe fox go back to it's sandy den.

Letthe wind die down.Letthe shed

go back inside.Letevening come.

The repetition of "Let" and "back" grounds the poem, rocking it gently back and forth.

The next time a favorite song comes on the radio and you find yourself singing at the top of your lungs as you're driving to work, remember you're listening to poetry; it's not as unattainable as we think.

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