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Op-Ed: Music and Poetry: How They Are Similar and Why They Are Important

Like many art forms, music and poetry are so similar and have a timeless impact on the world we live in today. Though there are many art forms like dancing, painting, sculpting, and performing, music and poetry are artistic outlets that often go hand in hand. They are all forms of expression, yet poetry and music have been connected for centuries, through many different cultures and countries.

Many cultures throughout the ages have had different ways of expressing themselves through outlets like poetry and music. Greek rhapsodies, Japanese tankas, and Chinese Shijings are all examples of sung poems from different cultures.

Poetry, in nature, has rhythm, flow, and expression using words and language to convey a deeper, emotional meaning; and music does the same thing using instruments and different music forms. Let’s first discuss more how music and poetry are similar:

How are Music and Poetry Similar?

  1. Music and poetry both rely on a combination of sounds and silence.

Music and poetry are dependent on their timing, rhythm, and flow, as I mentioned earlier. Both in songwriting and poetry, artists rely on meter, rhyme, stress, alliteration, and assonance to convey meaning through their art. Though sounds and literary devices are very important to the artistic expression often found in music and poetry, silence is also very important in these two art forms. There’s a lot said in these moments where silence resonates with the imagination of the piece. When poetry is being read, there are line breaks, contemplative pauses, and patterns to add meaning and depth to the words being said. The same is true of music. Sometimes more emotion is conveyed through silence. In those moments where words can’t express the emotion of the artist, silence speaks volumes.

  1. Music and poetry both dive into similar themes such as love, loss, spirituality, nature, beauty, identity, and life.

Music and poetry develop similar themes through artistic expression. The beauty of words and music is that it’s easy to convey certain emotions. These themes of love, loss, spirituality, nature, beauty, identity, and life are found in everything we do, but music and poetry make these topics relatable and find a way to express everyday feelings in a positive and artistic outlet. In music, if an artist is trying to express sadness or anger, they may use a heavier beat in a slow tempo. You can use different instruments to demonstrate the themes you want to expound upon. When you are trying to convey sadness or anger in poetry, you might use punchy lines with vivid verbs. Using alliteration with harsh sounds also might express themes of disappointment or sadness. There are many techniques you can use in your own writing to express and communicate your thoughts more efficiently—that’s the beauty of music and poetry! You can express yourself however you want.

  1. Music inspires poets, and poetry inspires musicians.

Music and poetry both provide an amazing outlet for people to understand themselves and the world around them. When an artist is inspired artistically, it fuels their creativity. Lots of artists, whether a songwriter or poets, often draw from life experiences when they create. Since music and poetry have been around for ages, they are often considered hand in hand. One of my favorite bands, Linkin Park, wrote such lyrical music, that if you look at most of their song lyrics, you can see it’s written like poetry. In their song “Somewhere I Belong” they write:

I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain ’til it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

This chorus reads like poetry, complete with patterns, rhyme, and emotion. While this is a great example of how poetry can inspire musicians, one poet that has really stood out to me as I’ve studied famous poets is the work of Percy Bysshe Shelly, who is famous for his lyrical and long-form verse. He was an English Romantic poet and was very influential in the 19th century, long before bands like Linkin Park, yet his verses are very lyrical and flowing in a way that music often is. He talks about the influence of music in his short poem, titled “To—.” He wrote:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Music remains, and so does the impact it has on its listener.

Why are Music and Poetry so Important?

Music and poetry are timeless. Similar to what Shelley said, music “vibrates in the memory,” much like poetry. These art forms are timeless because of their meaning and emotional expression. That’s why poets like Shelly or artists like the Beatles who haven’t made new content in decades are still listened to and appreciated. Words and sounds aren’t much on their own but put together and crafted in an artistic and meaningful way can leave an influential fingerprint of love and appreciation in the listener and reader’s heart. The impact of music and poetry is unexplainable. These art forms are so valuable and important, and learning more about them can help contribute to art appreciation and the continuation of artists’ legacies.

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