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just Having Things To Say

by Zettel 

Posted: 02 March 2019
Word Count: 166
Summary: One of my occasional efforts at a song. A songwriter friend said because she is happy she was finding it hard to write. Stanza 4 sort of a ‘bridge’

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Just Having Things To Say

I’ve sung my share of sad songs
I’ve hung out with the blues
Poetry they say with misery belongs
And freedoms having nothing left to Lose

But poetry’s just having things to say
Happy sad right or wrong
Why is love that’s lost a better way
To capture life in song

Living’s not a coin with heads on both its sides
Win and lose in  life you’ll find 
However long or short enjoy the ride
When Winter comes Spring’s not far behind

She thought he loved her
The way she needed
But she was wrong
He thought she loved him
The way he wanted
But he too was wrong
In this lies a sad sad song

But when you’re happy love returned
Celebrate it well
A gift of life well learned 
A story you should tell

Poetry’s just having things to say
Happy sad right or wrong
Visit but don’t dwell in yesterday
And capture all of life in song


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Comments by other Members

V`yonne at 14:10 on 03 March 2019  Report this post
I can see St 4 as a bridge or as an ongoing partial chorus

She thought he loved her
The way she needed
But she was wrong

after ST1

He thought she loved him
The way he wanted
But he too was wrong

after ST3

The entire thing at the end. I sing but I never make up lyrics.

James Graham at 20:43 on 03 March 2019  Report this post
But poetry’s just having things to say
This is something that needs to be said, and you’ve found the simplest, most direct way of saying it. I think among contemporary poets there is a tendency (by no means universal) to assume that expressing sorrow or despair is ‘a better way/ To capture life’, but of course it’s not better,  just one of many aspects of the human condition. Other negative emotions come into modern poetry too, especially anger; needless to say there’s a lot to be angry about, but again it’s only one aspect. Everyone knows that in life there is joy and happiness, and ‘love returned’, as well as misery; the point is that we should write about them without worrying that our work will somehow be less true or less poetically powerful.
I love great celebratory poetry, and make no apology for quoting one of my favourites – also very simple and direct:
O my love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.
But nowadays some poets would say that sort of thing is harder to write!
I will comment further, looking at your poem in more detail. Positive comments and suggestions for revision. Oonah’s idea of splitting that middle section is well worth considering.

Zettel at 04:11 on 11 March 2019  Report this post
Belatedy: thanks for the comments.

V'yonne - I see your point but splitting S4 loss the impact of the contrast when it is set together as on Stanza.Tlo a dd the full version at the end gives more prominence to this particular thought than I wanted. It is after all only one example of the mroe general point I was tryng to make.

James thanks for your comments so far: I agree entriely about the Burns wholeheartedly. Interestingly though I was vaguely aware that it originated as a poem I have only ever heard it performed as a song.  It has that rare quality of a poem that it  'sings' - it almost begs to be sung. I'm quite sure that if smeone tried to put mine to music it would need alteration because the rhythm and phrasing of the singing voice is different from the spoken voice. Getting the balance between lyric and melody right is key and that is why singer/musician songwriters have such an advantage. I believe there are some, notably Elton John who can build a melody around 'given' words: but I've always wanted the chance to put lyrics to a given melody. Alternatively collaborate inter-actively with a musician to adapt an orginal lyric to blend it with the rhythmic requirements of a musial arrangement. But understandably anyone with the ability to write good melodies will tend to want to create their own lyrics for them.

It still seems worthwhile to try to write a lyric rather than poem occasionally especially when there is a simple central idea at the heart of it. The poetic form can express much more complexity but also of course simplicity: however a 'simple' song can use even more 'simple' language because of the facility in a song to stretch vowel sounds over several notes. The effect is to emulate the 'distillation' of feelings and ideas into the most potent expressiveness of precisely judged evocative words that one finds in poetry: but  in a slightly different 'form' that recognizes the difference between singing and speaking. As I said the Burns has the rare quality of working equally in both forms. Bob Dylan is another who has many 'songs' that work as poems: just as his namesake Dylan Thomas has many poems that work as songs. Though hard to define I find the differences and similarities very interesting to explore. As a general rule I don't think songs are well suited to complex or complicated ideas. There is a parallel in the contrast between books and films. Many great films have been based on short stories: and many great books have made very poor films.  The (sadly) recently passed William Goldman said of screen adaptations of books that it was a fatal mistake to try to be too 'faithdul' to a book in a film: however he added it was absolutely essential to be faithful to the spirit of the book.  The distinction rests he said on recognizing that they are different forms.

Thanks again


James Graham at 21:12 on 11 March 2019  Report this post
Thank you for this very interesting reply. I will give it some thought and get back to you.


James Graham at 21:30 on 12 March 2019  Report this post
You make some interesting points here, especially about the essential simplicity of songs and the art of marrying words and music.
I've always wanted the chance to put lyrics to a given melody
Some time ago on radio I heard a contemporary composer (forget who) explain that the art of Robert Burns is in a sense the opposite of that of Schubert: Schubert composed great music to given words, while Burns composed great lyrics to given tunes. He placed Burns and Schubert on an equal footing, each having left us a corpus of great songs.
Burns’s way of song-making is described by his (long suffering) wife Jean Armour, in her memoirs. When they lived at Ellisland farm, near Dumfries, Burns used to go for a walk along the nearby River Nith, with a traditional tune in his head, return in an hour or so, sit in his rocking-chair, and write the words of a new song. Many of these songs became recognised as masterpieces.
Your poem (above) has some of the qualities of a song, but as you say if it were set to music it would probably have to be altered. With that in mind, I think you should consider challenging yourself to write words to a given tune. You could choose an existing tune – even if there are words to it already – and try composing even a couple of verses which fit the tune and also match the mood or feeling of the tune. Try to find those ‘precisely judged evocative words’ that make a good song. Try to ‘stretch vowel sounds over several notes’ which can be a very powerful feature of a song, adding emphasis to key words and heightening the feeling. Anyone who knows me would say, ‘Just listen to who’s talking’ – I couldn’t do any of this. But I think maybe you could.

Zettel at 01:47 on 13 March 2019  Report this post
Good advice James

I've done this twice. The most ambitious was a revised lyric for Don MacLean's famous American Pie. This was about the death of Buddy Holly and I guess a loss of musical 'innocence'. I wanted something with a similar tone and used the assassination of Kennedy as the theme. I have retained onr or two phrases from the original both because of the fit and because they reinforce the familiarity of 'feel' from the original. I believe my version, whatever its lyrical merits, does precisely follow the rhythm and cadence of the original - which is among the most complex pop songs.in these respects.

The other was perhaps one of the best 'protest' anti-war songs ever written - Buffy Sainte-Marie's Universal Soldier.
Again wanting to try to do justice to the quality and seriousness of intent of the original, instead of the "Universal Soldier  without whom war could not go on" I chose Universal (Arms) Trader also without whom war could not go on - in a difference sense.



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