Lyrics as Poetry

by Kitty Drake in October 2019
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Are Coldplay lyrics poetry? If that question makes you want to die a bit prepare to have your mind blown. In Lyrics as Poetry — a journal of songwriting and prose — there is a strong argument made that ‘Daylight’, from Coldplay’s second album, in fact is. Alex Ashford, who is himself the author of an award-winning collection of poetry, writes a rather lovely mini-essay on the song: “‘Daylight’ reminds me to believe, again, in the enduring promise of the sun — to return to us, always, to break open the darkness.” Whether or not you hate the music featured, this is a magazine that reminds you of the subjectivity involved in classing something ‘poetry’, and the strange weight conferred by that word.

Lyrics as Poetry is split between two different types of content: there are really famous songs, and then there are relatively unknown songs. The latter have their lyrics written out in full, while the former (by Neil Young, Bruce Springstein, The Cure etc) have no lyrics printed at all — instead we are given the title, accompanied by a paragraph from a writer who is a fan. This has an interesting effect: reading Zach Schonfeld’s paragraph about Prince’s jealousy of then-girlfriend Susannah Melvoin’s intimate relationship with her sister, ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ plays in a shadowy loop in your head. The temptation is to put the song on while you read, but it’s actually more satisfying not to. The pleasure of Lyrics as Poetry is noticing the way that a five word title can hold a whole of a song within it: lyrics written down are haunted by their music, and that odd doubling is a sort of poetry. 

Featuring a creamy cover page, and black and white doodles as its only illustration, Lyrics as Poetry seems designed to keep the focus on the music. This is a shame: one more synaesthesic layer might be to see songs rendered as images.

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