Media Mondays: Folk Music and Poetry

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Growing up in the live music capital of the world definitely influenced my taste in music. From an early age, I was exposed to folk and bluegrass greats such as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Alison Krauss. This type of music moves me emotionally and my bond with it has grown stronger over the years.

While the instrumental aspect itself is genius, I have long been impressed by the poetry of folk lyrics. Songwriters in this genre take special care with the words they sing. I have often been moved to tears listening to my iPod, overcome by the emotion behind the lyrics. Folk and bluegrass singers have a mastery of lyric language that many poets do not possess, and these artists also master a literary technique that many advanced writers struggle with: rhyming. Take the chorus from John Price’s despairing song “Hello in There,” for example:

You know that old trees just grow stronger,

And old rivers grow wilder every day.

Old people just grow lonesome.

Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello.”

Or even these verses from Townes Van Zandt’s “To Live Is To Fly:”

Days up and down they come

Like the rain on a conga drum

Forget most, remember some

Don’t turn none away

Everything is not enough

And nothing is too much to bear

Where you’ve been is good and gone

All you keep’s the getting there

Writers can learn a lot from these artists. Because musicians must write tight, to fit with the melody of their song, every word is used to its maximum. Each phrase is important and meaningful, making their impact even more powerful. Even in prose writing, this is important to remember to write tight. Wasteful writing can mean the end of reader’s attention, especially when addressing bigger topics. By sticking to the core of meaning and choosing words that more effectively convey ideas, writers can create a bigger impact on readers and craft more profound statements.

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