View Full Version : Songwriting vs. Poetry?

09-05-2005, 07:09 AM
You've got songwriting and you have poetry. Which I think there is not that much difference between a song and a poem. But what is the difference in the two genres? I would love to find out.


09-27-2005, 06:39 AM
songs are poems put to a tune that help explain the emotion. Just think of singing amazing grace in style of metallica?! Music helps people understand not only w/ words but w/ sounds and one's tone of voice. Like to me the sound of the wind sound gentle and smooth and that could be portrayed w/ wind insturments. Sorry i'm rambaliing. Well, I hope i was some help!

11-24-2005, 07:55 AM

Here's an article that may help: http://www.songlyricist.com/lyricorpoem.htm

Scroll down and you'll see "similarities" and "differences" between lyrics and poetry.

All the best,

11-25-2005, 02:03 PM
Basically i dont think that there is any difference between poetry and songs .They are all the same just the names are diffrent.yes ,that yeah!!.

12-03-2005, 03:10 AM
songwriting is metered writing usually to the count of 7
poetry is not.

12-03-2005, 03:13 AM
I beg to differ! Poetry does have meter and sometimes to the count of seven, though it can have any meter, really.

12-03-2005, 04:39 AM
Songwriting is similar to poetry, but when you write songs you need to also have what's known as a 'bridge'. In addition, many songs have a chorus that's separate from the main verse. This also needs verse, which may be in a different meter.

At a writer's conference I went to in the spring, a professional songwriter/singer showed me this by making one of my published poems into a song. It was a neat experience!

12-03-2005, 05:35 AM
I beg to differ! Poetry does have meter and sometimes to the count of seven, though it can have any meter, really.

very well said...
I guess I should have emphasied(sorry for the spelling, my eyes are tired)...
the IS in my statement... poetry has more free form to it... yes it can be metered where as a song has to be metered...

12-06-2005, 01:03 PM
To quote the article I posted:

"A poem is designed to be read on the page—a lyric is designed to be sung by the human voice and heard with music."

A poem can be complex and dense and obscure, because a reader has time to re-read and ponder each line. A song lyric needs simpler and conversational language, to connect aurally.

A successful lyric will have a beat and meter, so that it can be set to music, and it needs metric variation too -- verse after verse in an identical meter will become monotonous when set to music. Hence the different sections of a song: verse, chorus, bridge.

Jim Colyer
01-13-2006, 08:22 AM
Songs are more conversational and down to earth. Poems are more into techniques like metaphors and similes. Also, songs have melodies.

02-04-2006, 08:37 PM
It sounds like you're not comparing songwriting to poems, but the writing of lyrics to poems. Songs are first and foremost about fitting music to a vocal melody. Personally, I pay little attention to my own lyrics. I get more of a sense of accomplishment from creating a nice composition. I've always thought poets were songwriters with no ear for melody.

02-08-2006, 06:36 AM
I write poems. My sister is an amazing singer/songwriter. While, she enjoys reading the poems I send her, she is uncomfortable with some of them... feeling like there is something in them that she's not getting. I think it's partly because in a song, if you want to say you are lonely, you can just say that... I'm lonely on Sundays... etc... while in a poem, you may say that you are lonely without ever using the word lonely.... I guess what I'm saying is that in songwriting, you can do a lot more "telling" instead of "showing" .... I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud.

02-08-2006, 06:44 AM
I've written/published both poetry and songs. In my opinion, there's not much difference...except in a song, the text is put to music. I've written rhyming poetry and rhyming lyrics, non-rhyming poetry and non-rhyming lyrics. Traditional songs tend to have metered lyrics, but not all songs do.

However: if you take a weak poem, it likely won't stand very well on its own. Add a great musical hook, however, and a catchy melody...and voila! You have a catchy song. Could be a BETTER song, of course, with stronger lyrics, but the music adds an extra dimension.

Hope this helps.

02-11-2006, 08:09 AM
Maybe the dividing point is much more abstract.
Poetry forces the lyrical musicality onto the reader/reciter, which leaves the metaphors rigid and less open to interpretation. With songs the metaphors seem to be more malleable and subject to "shaping" dictated by the interpretation realized by performance.

Dunno tho yo.

02-12-2006, 07:58 PM
You've got songwriting and you have poetry. Which I think there is not that much difference between a song and a poem. But what is the difference in the two genres? I would love to find out.


The difference is simply music/no music. Many great songwriters are gifted poets. For example, here are the lyrics to "Every Grain of Sand" by Bob Dylan:

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There's a dyin' voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.
Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like cain, i now behold this chain of events that i must break.
In the fury of the moment i can see the master's hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.
Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.
I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame
And every time i pass that way i always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey i come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.
I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes i turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

02-22-2006, 03:09 AM
Song or poem? How do you hear it in your head? Seems to me that poems are meant to read aloud, or meant to be read by the heart, sort of wordlessly, whereas songs are meant to be sung, either aloud or in head-humming mode.

Poems can be sung, too, of course: years ago on Prairie Home Companion's first run, they did "Whose woods these are I think I know" to the tune of Hernando's Hideaway, which was wonderful. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif

I make up and sing songs to my animals all the time, and few if any of them would make good poems, but quite a few are delightful little songs.

Come on, Barley, let's go pee;
then it's bed-time for you and me!
But don't pee on the grass again --
'cause it won't grow in acid rain.

Nothing to submit anywhere as poetry, but to a vaguely childhoodish tune, jolly at 11 p.m.

-- Ashleen

03-24-2006, 07:58 AM
Song Lyrics and Poetry are related, but they are very different in many respects. Few serious poems (as opposed to Verse) can be successfully set to music and fewer Song Lyrics can be taken seriously as Poetry when stripped of their Music (Despite examples like Dylan, Cohen, Simon amd Billy Joel, whose lyrics, are considered primarily as "Verse" or "Minor" Poetry, when compared to that of Masters like Yeats, Frost and Eliot) or any Major Poets of Classical Antiquity.

To begin with they have different purposes. Poems are meant to take all forms of experience (both internal and external) and put them in an organized form that will communicate with a reader , by recreating universal experience so that it might provoke thought or emotion or understanding on multiple levels.

Although Poetry can draw from "Personal" experience, it is more properly suited to dealing with classical questions of Life, Death, History, Conflict/War, Philosphy, Social Criticism and various moral and ethical issues, and all are most effective if they are presented on a universal level.

The forms that Poems can take are almost unlimited as long as the Basic elements of craftsmanship are employed encompassing Purpose, (whether it be description, analysis , or expression of an emotional or intellectual response to experience), Focus which centers on a single subject and should be bounded by Unities of Expression, Thought, and Image which will preferably end in a Denouement or Outcome that Unites the whole.

They can encompass such complexity because they may be examined at leisure and returned to over and over again to capture subtleties of meaning.

Song Lyrics are much more limited as their "primary purpose" is to provide Entertainment and Pleasure by provoking emotional response to Discriptions of Personal Interactions, providing Social Criticism, or communicating Feeling.

This may sound roughly similar to the goals of poetry, but "Lyrics", because they must be grasped and absorbed at a rapid pace, are generally limited to a single theme that can be responded to on an emotional or direct level without requiring (or encourageing) thought beyond the basic message, although other levels and any subliminal messages may be generated or otherwise carried by the music itself.

Moreover "Traditional Lyrics' were and are generally encumbered by the necessity of regular Rhythms, Rhyme and a fairly standard over all structure of Verse-Chorus- Bridge-Chorus-Verse-Chorus or variations thereof, which would generally NOT be considered appropriate to most Poetry.

Some modern lyrics, (particularly HipHop and Rap) are more free form but still subject to basic Rhythms and contrained by the need for multiple internal Rhymes which are often extremely repetitious and even more limited than "Traditional Lyrics" in the subject matter they can effectively express, and even less inclined to multiple levels of meaning.

I write both Songs and Poetry and find that they not only require differences in approach and intent (aside from my own commitment to elements of craftsmanship) but that they seldom can crossover easily from one form to the other, (although I have in fact done so at least a few times in both direction, (although, except in a couple of cases) it took radical revisions in form to do so.).

Hope this gives some insight.


To see how different my Poetry is from my Song Lyrics (aand the Songs themselves), those interested can find the former at: http://www.shadowpoetry.com/members/poetscorner/ and the latter at www.Acidplanet.com by searching under J.R. Hoye