The Argotist OnlineTM

Home        Articles       Interviews        Features       Ebooks       Submissions      Links


Bariane Louise Rowlands


Bariane Louise Rowlands is a poet, songwriter and a painter. She plays the guitar, the bodhran and sings. She has been involved with folk gigs and festivals in New Zealand and the UK since the late 1990s. She now lives in Austria where she is collaborating in a musical project with The Urban Nomad Mixers—a collective of European performance artists. She is currently working on her first CD (Behind the Blue Door) to be released by Trivial Music in 2007. She has also written songs for the Viennese DJ, Alexander (‘The base Angel’) Idel. For the most part, however,  she works alone focusing on textual composition.




Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?


A: Only in terms of metre. Poetry can have superior abstract elements, whereas lyrics tend to be more direct because they traditionally address a more communal (and in some cases less introspective) audience. Poetry can be a space for deep reflection, as well as being linguistically experimental. I think many lyrics are poems, but few poems can be said to be songs—although they can be musical.


Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?


A: Only in that I think rhyme serves as an aid to writing a song. It can push you to find the right word to complete the rhyme scheme. It also helps the listener remember the lyrics. But for me, full rhymes are not all that important, I prefer half rhymes because they are more subtle and less like nursery rhymes. Old songs and folk songs depended on rhyme because their archetypal content reflected the communality of their audiences. People shared these songs in a communal sense. In our more socially fragmented society, songs largely, have become more personal and complex in their concerns. Because of this, I think rhyme is slowly becoming less and less important.


Q: Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?


 A: Personally I think that experimentation is valuable and opens up avenues where all mediums can express themselves and explore each other, but most songs do tend to display distinct formal qualities (such as rhyme, verses, bridges, refrains etc), which can place limitations on a songwriter’s spontaneity.  Incidentally, Jazz which also has certain formal qualities probably has more in common with free verse than is perhaps evident in much songwriting.


Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?


A: Absolutely not. Poetry was reading. It was as though I were watching a film. I could take my time, I could hover over any phrase or word or line and ponder it. I could put it down and go and research something that was relevant to the text I was reading and then go back and pick up the verse again and continue. I could be reading poetry lying in my bedroom, sitting on a bench in a meadow. It was a relationship between the poet and me, mediated by the “ poetic muse”.  Incidentally, with regard to walkmans, when one’s hearing is cut off from the  surroundings, it is as though you are caught up in a solitary world where nothing else can be brought in. Hearing normal sounds such as a fire burning, birds, the wind, a river, the traffic, children playing, people walking past; gives one a sense of reality so that reading a poem does not isolate you and force you into it’s frame of mind, so to speak. Foe me, poetry didn’t connect with music because I felt that I was part of poetry. With music I feel possessed by some aspect of its power.


Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?


A: I cannot say that from reading poetry books anything influenced me in terms of wanting to write songs. I wanted to write poetry for music, and how I wrote and constructed verse was part of songwriting for me. I was writing poetry before I wrote songs and it was the way I wrote poetry that influenced how I wrote songs. But reading poetry itself did not influence my songwriting. Playing guitar influences how I write songs more. It is actually quite frustrating to try to balance the two. I think Roy harper does it amazingly. However, it could be said that if you read my poetry and read my lyrics, you would probably find that they were similar. I feel I lose a lot of what I want to say when I am writing songs.


Q: Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?


A: Poetry tends to require some effort to engage with it, as opposed to songs, which can be more passively received by the listener.  Also poetry is viewed by most people as being obscure, and this can intimidate them to some extent. I think many people feel that they should be educated in order to engage with poetry. The literary establishment creates this impression to some extent.



 At school and university, you are taught to deconstruct poetry; to delve into the meaning, the genre, the culture, the history, the sociological ramifications etc. Because of this, poetry is seen as being hard work. Music, on the other hand, is just music. Everyone listens to it. Everyone buys it. You don't have to be educated to listen to it. It reaches people on all levels and is not intimidating. I have met people who are ashamed that they don't read poetry and who are embarrassed because they don't understand it.  They see poetry as elitist and because of this they feel belittled. Most people can enjoy (and more easily find meaning) in abstract language when it is in the form of a song they are listening to. Everyone sings to themselves. Everyone can make up lyrics. Unfortunately, most people are terrified to delve into the world of poetry. I am saddened that in order to reach the poetry I wanted, I had to turn to music. Yet, this is still not enough. I cannot express what I really wish to. That is about readership, not about expression and poetry. Now, I need my guitar to write poetry, and so it becomes a song and then a band and then so on and so forth!






copyright © Bariane Louise Rowlands