Lyrically Speaking Of flow and rhythm
By Stan Grimes
Poetry and song are akin so write with your heart, but remember form, rhythm, rhyme.
Lyrics are a very personal and intimate form of poetry that express a writer's deepest thoughts and emotions. Sometimes known as sonnets, odes, or elegies, lyrics are song-like, generally rhyme, and most often are set to music. We call them songs. Brilliant deduction, eh?
Years ago, I wrote a lyrical poem and submitted it to an American Song Festival contest. Happily, I came in second place (Folk Category) and won seventy-five bucks. Hey, back then seventy-five bucks was, well, seventy-five bucks. The way I did it was probably a little unconventional – I thought of a song written by Arlo Guthrie and hummed it while making up my own words. (The contest was just for lyrics, so the only thing submitted were the words . . . in case you were thinking, "Hey, that Stan is a plagiarizing creep.") Though unconventional, my lyrics contained a rhythmic beat and carried an emotional message. If you are a lyrical poet, you will definitely want to keep an eye on the rhythmic flow of your words. Generally, though, rhyming poems or lyrical creations have a natural flow to them, unless of course you are like Steve Martin's character in the classic movie, The Jerk. His character, Navin, had not an ounce of rhythm, not even in his little toe.
In much of today's music, rhyming is not a necessity, but flow and rhythm are. For example, below are the first four lines of a song by one of my favourite groups, Coldplay. The song is titled Yellow, and is an example of a song with lyrics that do not necessarily rhyme. Still, the flow is marvellous:
"Look at the stars See how they shine for you, And everything you do Yeah, they were all yellow . . ." (Coldplay)
Obviously the word yellow does not fit into the rhyming scheme, but if you have heard the song you will notice that just after the last syllable in yellow, the rhyme is created musically; a guitar chord provides a sort of "do" sound, which rhymes with the line before, a genius bit of creativity.
In the end, whether or not you choose to rhyme your lyrics is not as important as what you are trying to say. What is your message? Many songs or lyrical poems have a political, humorous, or emotional orientation. Or your poem may have a combination of these.
There is no question you must write with your heart, but you also must remember form, rhythm, and rhyme. In other words, keep your head about you. Don't be afraid to try some new ways to say, I love you, I hate you, or this government sucks.
Okay, grab your dictionary, thesaurus and rhyming dictionary, and have at it. Have fun. It's your song and you own it. But be careful not to plagiarize a song you remember from the past – you don't want to end up in jail now, do you?
Stan Grimes is a graduate from Indiana University and works in the real world as a social worker. He has written a number of articles for the American Chronicle and www.useless-knowledge.com. Stan has published a number of poems and short stories in various anthologies and on his website at AuthorsDen. He has published three science fiction/suspense thriller novels. His latest, Deacon, can be found at Double Dragon Publishing Inc.