“[W]hether lyrics are poetry is a question that doesn’t require an answer—or has too many to bother with,” says Michael Robbins in the Chicago Tribune. In all likelihood, he’s right. So for that, we can just relax and have fun with Mr. Robbins’ quick exploration of the topic (assuming we’re able to overlook the Joanna Newsom comment) where he really lets Christopher Ricks answer for him:
This is the most significant way in which songs differ from poems — they’re intended to be heard, while poems for some time have been written primarily for the eye. As Christopher Ricks puts it in his brilliant and annoying “Dylan’s Visions of Sin,” “the eye can always simply see more than it is reading, looking at; the ear cannot, in this sense (given what the sense of hearing is), hear a larger span than it is receiving. This makes the relation of an artist like Dylan to song and ending crucially different from the relation of an artist like Donne or Larkin to ending.
If that’s too general a question and answer for you, try “How Ya Like Me Now?”, a more refined piece I saw over at Poetry Foundation not long ago considering whether or not hip hop’s suspended adolescence keeps it from serious consideration:
If rap is mainly a genre for and by adolescents, it is largely because its notion of artistic self-assertion is an adolescent one—a fight for status in a closed hierarchy. A little of this kind of spiritedness may be healthy for art—contemporary poetry could use a dose of it—but the Anthology of Rap demonstrates that it’s not until this striving is sublimated and turned inward, becoming a struggle for truth and beauty, that an art grows up.
So, what do you think?