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Interviews with Songwriters on Songwriting and Poetry

 

 

The following interviews with singer-songwriters are the result of a suggestion made to me by poet and singer-songwriter Jake Berry who has for many years practised both arts. Jake supplied three of the six interview questions, and of the relationship between songs and poems writes:

 

Poetry, especially in the 20th century, became a victim of specialization. That was the trend – the notion that in order for someone to be good in a discipline one needed to devote all his or her time to a specific aspect of it. This makes sense in the sciences because the more we know the broader the area of study becomes and there is simply not enough time to know everything about all the sciences. Following the lead of the sciences, the whole of Western culture became specialized. This was not necessary. I think we are beginning to recover from that misstep. The sciences are discovering that it is beneficial if all the sciences collaborate to move toward a more comprehensive picture of what we know and don’t know. Specialization was essential as a way of moving away from the ancient centralizations like monarchy, a single dominant religion and so forth. And specialization should continue, but in conversation the arts can lead and are leading this development – not toward an elimination of specialties, but conversation and collaboration.

 

This specialisation may be responsible for what some see as poetry’s innate inability to elicit as deep an emotional response as song is able to do. This is reflected in some of the interviewees’ answers, where a common theme is that of the song as being a better delivery system for poetic content to have an effect on an audience emotionally than poetry is. Similarly, a possible reason as to why poetry is no longer popular is that song has replaced its function; this has been especially the case since the mid-1960s. What we now call “poetry” may one day come to be recognised as largely a specialised and hermetic form of language, discussed and valued within academia, but with little relevance (either emotionally or artistically) to the broader culture. Whether this is categorically the case or not cannot be debated here, but it is worth thinking about.

 

A discussion about song and poetry can be found at the British and Irish Poets List here.

 

 

 

 

 In alphabetical order:

 

 

  Nancy Ames  

 

Jennifer Ann 

 

Rod Argent 

 

Perla Batalla 

 

Jake Berry 

 

Jeff Berry 

 

Elfin Bow 

 

Pete Brown 

 

Neil Campbell

 

Julie Christensen 

 

Aurora D’Amico  

 

Barbara Dickson 

 

Chris Difford  

 

Carol Decker  

 

Van Eaton 

 

Julie Felix 

 

Jack Foley  

 

Kate Garner  

 

Heather Haley

 

Steve Harley

 

Hayley Hutchinson

 

Jennifer John

 

Jorma Kaukonen

 

Tam Lin

 

Charlotte Martin

 

Natalie McCool

 

Gillian McCoy

 

Ralph McTell

 

Vanessa Murray

 

Lizzie Nunnery

 

Judith Owen

 

Rozi Plain

 

Eddi Reader

 

Keith Reid

 

Lucy Rose

 

   Kate Rusby  

 

Willy Russell

 

Beck Siàn

 

Chris Stroffolino

 

Alison Sudol

 

Linda Thompson

 

Richard Thompson

 

Martha Tilston

 

Stuart Todd

 

Eric Unger

 

Marry Waterson

 

Pietra Wexstun 

 

Deborah Williams 

 

Rachael Wright