Believe it or not, there are quite a few fundamental differences in writing both song lyrics and poetry. I have written poetry for years now and have decided to dabble as a lyricist quite recently (I am talking about strictly writing lyrics, not the music accompanied by it). I’ve recorded my findings below and hope you find it useful when deciding whether to write lyrics or poetry.
1. Poetry stems from the soul
Poetry, it seems, is a product of the soul. Nothing will ever compare to the rush of inspiration surging through thin veins, the swelling pride for carefully crafted words, the charged satisfaction from Word documents harboring your electric emotions. While writing poetry is more of an all-encompassing, soul-pouring task, writing lyrics– at least through my experience– is more of a mindful challenge. You are daring your mind to rhyme a certain amount of lines, to come up with clever and fitting refrains. While writing poetry stems from the soul, writing lyrics originates from the brain. The satisfaction that grows from writing lyrics is analogous to being skin deep, compared to the more sub-dermal feeling of writing poetry.
2. Lyrics are extraordinarily memorable
Unlike most poetry, lyrics are set to a certain rhythm that adhere to a reader’s/listener’s mind and thoughts. This trait definitely sets lyrics apart from poetry. If you want a reader to remember an idea or emotion, or if you find that the style of repetition fits well with your voice, then, by all means, write lyrics! Some writers have an amazing knack when it comes to carefully repeating stanzas and engraving ideas in a reader’s mind. Lyrics also tend to be easier to understand from the reader’s perspective. They are usually simple, poignant, and easy to comprehend, thereby making them even more memorable than poetry.
3. Poetry serves to be therapeutic
The only way I can describe poetry is one of freedom: free, soulful freedom without the constraints of musical rhythms or choruses or bridges. Poetry just… is, and does not require dependence upon a structure. This sense of freedom is extremely healthy for the spiritual being, and helps one grow into the best person they can be.
Poetry also nestles itself inside an emotional foundation. It can connect humanity to nature, humanity to humanity, or humanity to the self. Audre Lorde said that, “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” Poetry connects us, as humans, to the past, present, and future.
One of my favorite sayings is “Poetry is in the streets in full, living color.” When you look at the world through the perspective of poetry, nothing is black and white; everything is fluorescent, and your world is reversed for the better. Using this special kind of lens aids in areas such as mediation and self-reflection.
Yes, writing lyrics can be pleasurable, fun even. But it is not always self-fulfilling.
4. Writing lyrics provides a higher success rate
If you are looking to make free-lance income by writing lyrics or poetry, you will most likely find the most success writing lyrics for a band or aspiring singer. The demand for well-written lyricists is there, and all you must do is supply it. In all honestly, there are not as many people out there looking for free-lance poets, so your best option financially would be to write lyrics. It is a fun and interesting job that will always have you searching for new ideas, new structures, and new topics.
Do you prefer writing poetry or lyrics? Which genre do you think wins the great debate? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what you think!