22 feb. 2007

What if we defined lyric poetry as truly "lyric," that is, meant for singing along with some kind of string instrument? Then who are the great lyric poets? Campion, Lorca? Petrarch still called his collection of poetry a canzionere. Most poetry is meant to be spoken or read on the page. Dramatic monologues are not "lyric" poems. Lyrics usually lack psychological depth of the modern sort.

We shouldn't talk about the speaker of the poem if it is a lyric. There is the implicit lyric subject, the person singing the song, who is not an author figure, really. Scholars now think that the "canción de amigo" of medieval Spain, whether written in Galician or Castilian, is authored by male poets. The lyric subject, of the poem, however, is female.

These poems are wonderfully fresh, as though they'd been written yesterday. Except that nobody wrote anything this fresh yesterday. They remind me of Lorca, because Lorca obviously knew and imitated these poems

Si la noche hace escura,
y tan corto es el camino,
¿cómo no venís, amigo?

If night is dark, the road short, why don't you come, friend? The "amigo" means "lover" in this particular lyric tradition. That's the word that's used almost always. Darkness is a friend to furtive lovers, I suppose.

What's the difference between the idea of a singer-as-songwriter, and the idea of "cover," in which the singer becomes the song but is not seen as necessarily author of those words? Somehow I prefer the latter.

What happens when a song meant for a woman, like "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," is sung by a man?

5 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

I've set various lyric poems by other authors to music over the years. It's not a project I am working on, really, but just something that comes up: one Paul Celan poem ("Trinklied" from his "Nachlass"), two by A. E. Stallings, a couple by Ernst Jandl.

Nada dijo...

I like Eartha Kitt singing "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" -- a woman singing a song meant for a man. But then, her voice is gender-transcendent.

John Gallaher dijo...

Lyle Lovett did a great version of "Stand By Your Man."

Jonathan dijo...

What a vile song.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Michelle Shocked's "Don't You Mess Around with My Little Sister" is sung in the voice of the big brother.