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Gerald Schwartz


From 1988 to 1996, Gerald Schwartz was a member of Solomons Ramada. He's currently in Faking Trains, as well as collaborating with Damian Catera, Steve Swell, Ras Moshe, Roy Campbell and William Parker. Schwartz, who studied poetry with Irish-American poet John Montague, as well as with Russian Emigre Joseph Brodsky, is the author of Only Others Are: Poems (Legible Press, 2003).




 Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?


 A: Yes, since most of what I write is in the tradition of prayer, elegy, litany, or the desire for sincerity. Poetry and lyrics, one in the same—there's no telling them apart, since I see them both as measures destined for the soul. In writing for Solomons Ramada, and later for Faking Trains, I have tried in my way to enact these poems as lyrics in a quickening tale—lyric structure as dramatic action.


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


A: For my work, rhyme is rare, since, in trying to work with vernaculars and simulations of conversation (or at least soliloquy), it would be too killing a cage to be locked in. Have to follow the rhythm of speech.


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: I take my cue from Ole' R. W. Emerson and trust the worthier impulses, since this is how I can best insure my writing and its performance a fidelity—each and every time it's expressed. I find I find the piece's "beliefs" through its writing. In that way, I think it's a lot like water-witching, divining for water.


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


A: Early on, say about age 12 or 13, (this would put me in the early seventies) when I first read Wm. Burroughs not as much as prose but as poetry, and then reading further (in a column he had in Crawdaddy mag) about his "cut-up" writing

technique, originated along with Bryon Gysin, as I actually listened to Bowie's Diamond Dogs, realizing the production of the text was the same! Awakening! One of the first, contributing to my early apprenticeship.


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


A: Everything—and anything that makes the stories actual, from Thomas Campion's solid lyrics to Sidney Lanier's epic "cantata" poems to George Bowering's feltschrifts—anything at all that makes me say—“Damn, I know this, I know it!" It is the effect anyone who writes would hope for. This is what I mean by sincerity, the kind I spoke of in my first answer.


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


A: Songs will always be more popular because of their presentation—they're delivered with a "drive" (music) over a "P. A. system". Songs also win over more because of their attention to silences and gaps and stillness, and simultaneity.





copyright © Gerald Schwartz