When one thinks of poetry, usually a high school English class riddled with Shakespearean ballads and romantic phrases comes to mind.
Our culture – especially within academic realms – recognizes the artistic and cultural importance of poetry. However, despite our teachers' best entreaties, few people purposely read poetry in spare time.
The art certainly isn't lost; poets absolutely still exist and create beautiful, relevant work. At first glance, poetry would seem to be somewhat obsolete – a nicety, perhaps, but not "the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge," as William Wordsworth once said.
I generally appreciate poetry, but even I – an English major – don't make a regular practice of reading poetic forms.
However, I do listen to music.
Songs surround our culture. Hollywood glamour, technology and increased avenues to discover new talent have made the music industry ripe for creativity. Though a good beat and rhythm are absolutely necessary for a good song, I think a truly powerful record carries meaningful lyrics and a powerful message. Good music is good poetry.
Despite continued debate about her talent or entertainment skills, teenagers continually often relate to heart-stricken ballads of Taylor Swift for a reason: her ability to phrase her experiences through song is obviously powerful. Millions of listeners, around the world, can relate to feeling like an admirer from a distance "Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find/that what you're looking for has been here the whole time," or "And I don't know why but with you I'd dance in a storm wearing my best dress/fearless." Though these lyrics may seem overly sappy or sentimental, Swift's bank account speaks for itself.
Sometimes, music truly contains a purely rhythmic purpose, like dubstep. Rap often can be better recognized for a beat than for the lyrics. Yet much music truly can be absorbed for its message, and I believe that music facilitates our newest form of poetry.
I don't pretend to be an expert in cutting-edge music or the newest innovation in sound, but I do listen to music that seems to speak to me in a particular phase of life. Certain songs, despite genre or artist, can relate to a situation of my life. The most popular songs seem to resonate with the greatest number of people. A recent No. 1 song, "Demons," doesn't have popularity because it only sounds great at a nightclub, rather, the unique message – about opening up to someone, even about struggles and inner battles – clearly echoes with listeners. Conversely, songs with worthless lyrics (such as the ever-uninspiring lyrics to Rebecca Black's "Friday") incite somewhat passionate distaste.
Just like poetry, words have found a way to speak to a different kind of human knowledge. Matthew Arnold, a major British poet, once deemed that poetry had the "power of forming, sustaining, and delighting us, as nothing else can." Perhaps he wasn't completely wrong. Although poetry on paper may not be quite as mainstream, the power of lyrical words that speak to different situations in life remains constant.
With the help of technology, music has seamlessly integrated itself into our daily life.
I get into my car and reflexively reach for the radio; when I study, I pull up my iTunes playlist; I exercise with headphones and my iPhone. Music plays in our restaurants, our stores and other facilities. We relate to the lyrics and seek new musical expressions continuously. Poetry, in this way, has morphed into a hybrid form – a combination of music, rhyme and lyricism.
Perhaps poetic relevance is why I can't stop thinking of Taylor Swift's first line to her song, "Red": "Loving him was like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street."
And I just can't stand it when that happens.
Sarah Hagaman is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at email@example.com.