Friday, November 26, 2004

Rhyme and Meter

I have to admit a certain respect for modern poets who write in rhyme and meter. First of all, there are so few of them, and second, there are so few good ones.

I mean, I'm a songwriter. And I've long believed that songwriting is poetry. In all the songwriting books I read and classes they attend, they tell me it's not so. Songwriting is NOT poetry. Most of the time they've just said that Songwriting has too many parameters, like rhyme schemes, metering, and strophic structure.

Yeah, so what? So do sonnets. What's your point?

I mean, to me, songwriting is just poetry within certain rules. Just like a sonnet has rules, just like a haiku has rules. Pop tunes have rules, too. And within those rules there is a lot of flexibility.

But, there is one difference between pure poetry and songwriting. One is meant to be read, and the other is meant to be sung. In other words, there are elements of the art that go beyond the printed word. Melody, harmony, accompaniament. A poem is just words on the page.

But even that's changing. Is poetry truly words on the page, or words in the air? With the advent of Poetry Slams, where delivery is almost as important as content, doesn't that add another element to the art?

So, back to my original point. I'm a songwriter, and I write in rhyme and meter so that it will fit with my accompaniment, and so that it will fit with the rules of songwriting. It has been a very long time since I wrote a pure poem, that is, something never intended to be set to music. And from time to time, I write a song where the lyrics could stand without the music, as a pure poem. Not very often, but it happens.

And as I read poems, I occasionally find a good one, a real gem, in rhyme and meter that wasn't intended to be set to music, or at least that hasn't been set just yet.

I was out surfing the blogs a few minutes ago, and I found a new poetry blog, named "Vanity, Thy Name Is 'Cameron's Poetry Blog'", and it had some great stuff in, you guessed it, rhyme and meter. Check it out.

And that also reminded me of another good friend that writes poetry, also in rhyme and meter. His great dream is to be a hymnist. Great stuff. Check him out at I actually had the chance to set one of his hymn texts in traditional four-part harmony. It was a great experience.

Great stuff.

Mark Hansen


  1. I admire anyone who can write lyrics/poetry/songs - I love listening to music and playing the piano, and I occasionally enjoy reading poetry, but am devoid of the gift of writing such stuff. How lucky you are to have such a gift!!

  2. Mark,

    Thanks for the very kind words. I always worry about showing this stuff to the public, but I'm glad when it is appreciated, particularly by another Latter-day Saint.



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