Surely words with no music are poems not lyrics.

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  • @pabrizzer Feb 2018

    Just writing words without a melody is poetry not lyrics imho.
    They may be an idea for a song but they ain't lyrics until they are part of a song. So half of what goes on here is poetry?
    Surely this has come up before.....

  • @sheilerk  Feb 2018

    This is a place for collaboration. Many musicians aren't great lyricists. Many lyricists aren't musicians. There's a difference between words written in a lyrical style and regular poetry. I've often had musicians inspired by my lyrics to take them to a finished song, and I often write lyrics to instrumentals on this site. To each his or her own. It's all about creating something new. There is always rhythm and music in my mind when I write. It's not always what becomes the final song, but it has a different life than poetry.

  • @zecoop  Feb 2018

    I disagree because people have come here to participate in a songwriting challenge and not a poetry challenge. But I totally respect you for thinking that because in the end it doesn't matter. I view them all as potential songs. Most of mine don't have any vocals. Are they songs? What is a song? I love that songs can represent so many different things to different people. 😀

  • @ianuarius  Feb 2018

    I say call it whatever the hell you want.

  • @johncrossman  Feb 2018

    It does come up about every year and it's a logical question. On the flip side, there's also sometimes a thread sometimes about whether instrumentals are songs like @zecoop said.

    @sheilerk said it better that I could. When someone takes that lyric/poem and turns it into a song, is that the point at which they become lyrics or were they lyrics all along? I like the openness of fawm for this among many reasons. I've seen many a poem/lyric turned into a really interesting song here that surprised me.

    With all that in mind, when I write lyrics for someone else, I try to build in a rhythm that would make sense in a song. And sometimes when I read a post here of lyrics only that are written that way, I can hear it and it comes alive as a lyric in my head.

    What do we think Bernie Taupin would say about it? 😀

  • @kahlo2013  Feb 2018

    My words are lyrics. I also write poems. I do not post my poems on FAWM. I write lyrics with music in my head. I sing them when I write them and I structure them in a song with choruses or bridges that I would not do in a poem. Even the use of rhyme and structure are different in many cases. Any lyrics could be read like poems, any poems could be sung. However, what I post on FAWM I write as lyrics and hope to work with as many musicians as possible in collaboration to complete the song. My own musical skills are limited and my vocals are not ones that anyone but my dog likes to listen to. Often times after FAWM I put some of my lyrics to music if they don't already have collaborators for music. Having said all that, you may call the words I write whatever you like.

  • @stephenwordsmith  Feb 2018

    @sheilerk is spot on about the prevailing intent being collaboration. Lyrical texts tend to strongly adhere to certain conventions around structure, rhythm, metre, consonance and language 'level' (formality and whatnot), which poetry is under no obligation to give the time of day. This is because we cannot allow them to simply exist in the context of silence - we cannot be blind to the workings of the mind's ear. Very few lyricists here go in for the florid purple blank verse one might associate with poetry, and those who do are often subject to the cruel reprimand that 'this could never be a song'.

    I have heard musicians say that they enjoy working with the lyricists here as their words suggest certain musical arrangements. Ask anyone who has ever worked with @arthurrossi...

  • @darcistrutt  Feb 2018

    This made me smile given Dylan just received the Nobel Prize in Literature. I’m betting he calls his writing lyric though. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with many of the lyric writers here. Some writing is so perfectly phrased it nearly sings by itself. There are some genres I don’t call music, but that’s my taste talking. To be honest, I love the fact FAWM embraces so much variety. Keep creating!

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    there is lyric poetry and there is poetry written for the page, for example the igmagists such a ts eliot and the concrete poets such as charles olson. lyric poems are songs even before they are set to music, or even if they are never set to music, as the musicality is inherent in the rhythm s and sound of the poem itself. and many lyric poets label these songs as songs, for example william blakes songs of innocence and experience. traditional english language folk songs are in many cases lyric poems sung to existing opular melodies. often the same lyric will be sug on occasion to different melodies, as are the songs in shakespeares plays. and so, i woud say that a lyric poem is a song with or without music, and non lyrical poem can be made into a song by setting it to music. regrding FAWM, i often collaborate with a lyricist when i come across a poem that sings to me. i dont have to write the music, the music is already there within the poem. someone else may hear dfferen

  • @iamthe666  Feb 2018

    I write both: lyrics come to me between 3:00 am and 6:00 am. -- music during the day. Before they *blend* they are: poems and musical tunes. But, I love how the two them come together.

  • @toms  Feb 2018

    All strings of words are already melodies! Just say them out loud and listen to the rhythm and notes. I have a feeling we just call some of them lyrics because they don't always naturally have a melody that we like.

  • @johnstaples  Feb 2018

    This question has been asked here once or twice! And the short, simple answer for FAWM purposes is...

    1) a title with some words in the box marked "lyrics" and some music that can be listened to = a song!

    2) a title with some words in the box marked "lyrics" = a song!

    3) a title with some music but no words in the box marked "lyrics" = a song!

    4) just a title = a song!

    And I totally agree with the fine lyricists above...@sheilerk...@kahlo2013...@stephenwordsmith

    Plus, my final word would be to totally welcome any poets out there who would wish to submit their words here, especially if they were interested in having music added! I love the challenge of adapting a poem to music!

  • @halfwalk Feb 2018

    Look at John Cage's 4'33", it has neither lyrics nor music, but is still considered by many to be a song.

    Intent, rather than semantic classification, is what's important.

    I feel like a lot of lyrics are posted on this site as a sort of placeholder, with a demo to be recorded later. Does that mean it isn't a song until someone hits record? At what point does it become a song? I think if it was written with musical intent, it's a song from the very beginning. Maybe other people just can't hear the notes yet.

    But then, I hear music in windshield wipers or gas pumps or the dog drinking water from a bowl in 5/4. So my definition of "what is a song" might be a little liberally skewed.

  • @snoozin  Feb 2018

    My grandfather was a Newfoundland poet who wrote over 150 poems in the 1940's. (with a typewriter on his chest and a pencil in a claw grip grasp as he was a quadriplegic with some hand mobility). I have had the honour of setting one of his poems to music and singing it in public. It is a song. There will be more.

  • @alonetogether  Feb 2018

    im really glad someone brought up 4'33" cause it pretty much shuts down any "whats a song" arguments. definitely one of the most important songs written

  • @iamthe666  Feb 2018

    Funny. I was going to write a "remix" of 4'33" (actually, I was going to write 14 remixes of 4'33" and take the entire rest of the month of February off :^)

  • @toms  Feb 2018

    @halfwalk , didn't Theo. Monk talk about how he heard rhythms in everything? Water lapping against a boat, walking (obviously), everything. That must be kind of painful, actually, always hearing melodies and rhythms in everything, always analyzing and counting... 😀

  • @declan  Feb 2018

    Personally, I could probably complete FAWM in a couple of days by going through my notebooks and fleshing out the bits of verse into fully-fledged lyrics/poems. But that’s not what I want from FAWM, I want to end it with a series of songs.

    I suspect there are people you just empty out the writers books onto FAWM at the start of February. But I don’t mind that they’re after something different from me from FAWM - collaborations, I guess.

    FAWM isn’t a competition - we’re here to experiment and be creative and we’re not all creative in the same way.

  • @tawny249 Feb 2018

    I think a lot of people, including myself, are working on or have already come up with melodies to the lyrics we post. Assuming we just wrote some words and don't have music in mind that happens not to have a good recording yet is slightly presumptuous. Please keep that in mind. I do agree that songs very often have a different look on the page and a different structure than poems do, but some poems can be easily turned into songs. So even if people don't have music in mind yet...someone is working on it. 😉

  • @iamthe666  Feb 2018

    @halfwalk and @toms I didn't want to bring up my tinnitus; and then, analyzing/counting and, just trying to hear something else. It's really only in the dead of night, when it's totally silent that it really bothers me. Other times, when there's some other sounds, it just becomes a backbeat.

  • @skittycat  Feb 2018

    My songs usually start as lyrics. Often the musical seeds come at the same time but its a lot easier for me to grab a pencil and scribble the words down first as I'm not competent enough with keyboard or guitar to be able to work out the tune/chords first.
    If I post lyrics without a recording its generally because I ran out of time. I still feel I have achieved in the challenge because its about "writing" not finishing, not recording, writing.
    And yeah, I also hear music in windscreen wipers, wind in the trees and a particularly awesome half hour in an MRI machine was like a really good clubnight!

  • @fearlessflight2014  Feb 2018

    I’m with @kahlo2013 @billwhite51 though I agree that it is possible for something to be both, even beyond the purpose of the writer. Many great works of poetry have been set to music and song lyrics published to be read like poetry or recited.

    I am in the same boat as @tawny249 . In my case I only have lyrics up because I am travelling on a tour with a dense itinerary so I have no time to mess with mobile recording equipment and prefer to wait til I get to my studio to make demos. But even the couple that were skirmished with only a placeholder melody are and always were lyrics and never poetry.

  • @corinnecurcio  Feb 2018

    Two different animals. My poems are not like my lyrics.

  • @coolparadiso  Feb 2018

    my poems are never lyrics and my lyrics never poems but both are often the raw material for each other.

  • @sbs2018 Feb 2018

    Poems can be pre-Lyrics but a true poem is more about the visual - not the sound - does not have a chorus and usually does not rhyme,

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    it wasnt until the 20th century that poetry was visual. before that it was all meant to be recited or sung,

  • @iveg Feb 2018

    I have some overlap. Not always.
    For me, the lyric verses have nearly identical rhythm, and there is usually a repeated chorus that is identical. In poems, my rhythm tends to be more free.
    In past skirmishes I have posted poems with horribly inconsistent rhythm, and then had to fight it later to record a demo

  • @treble  Feb 2018

    As others have said, I post lyrics only but they are not poems, they are lyrics/songs in progress. ☺ I sing and record the melody fragments I hear in my head on my phone. I'm able to complete melodies (music with chords and all) I hear in my head much faster than I used to and often have a "song" within 24 hours of writing lyrics. Next big step is recording! I connected a midi/usb converter to piano keyboard, downloaded Audacity, signed up for Sound Cloud. I'm a newbie/beginner learning everything I can by reading FAWM forums and reading and listening to what you amazingly talented FAWMERS are posting.

  • @kathym  Feb 2018

    I haven't always been able to post demos, but the things I write and post are songs. When I write a poem, I write a poem. When I write a song, i write a song. I know some folks who have taken poems and set them to music.

  • @tan482  Feb 2018

    I write a lot of poetry but I haven't written a lot of songs. I'm just starting out with songwriting and I find it really encouraging to be able to post lyrics up here that may eventually turn into songs. I don't always have a melody in mind when I write lyrics but I feel that most of the time they could be turned into a song, it just might take me a while as I'm a newbie 😉

  • @toms  Feb 2018

    @iamthe666 , I've attended performances of 433 by a pianist and a clarinetist, but never by a tinnitusist. (Tinnitus sucks, sorry to hear about that, pardon my lousy sense of humor.)

  • @fearlessflight2014  Feb 2018

    That's a great point @billwhite51, the written word is so much younger than songs or poetry.

  • @johnfahres Feb 2018


    I believe The Dude had a good response to your initial post:

  • @sbs2018 Feb 2018

    I read that modern poetry was visual. But I hear a rhythm in my head when writing a poem. My literary agent said my novel had a “poetic, almost lyrical rhythm” to it and wondering what that meant, I enrolled in a songwriting class to see if I could write songs. My instructor said my first song was a poem and he offered suggestions on turning it into a song. When I met my father and his family, I discovered my grandmother wrote poems and my grandfather, father, uncles, etc, were all musicians. In fact, my uncle encouraged me to pursue music, which was my first love anyway. So this journey has been one of discovery and FAWM is the next step, experimenting with words and music.

  • @tcelliott  Feb 2018

    @pabrizzer - I left a songwriting group on FB because a bunch of (insert derogatory statement)s kept going on and on how a lyricist isn't a songwriter. As far as FAWM goes, a lyricist is a songwriter. It's been stated nearly every year since I've been here (which was only 2008, so what do I know?)

    My opinion is that anything that encourages someone to be creative is good. I really don't understand the need to label people. Creativity is too vital to inhibit by trying to put someone in a box and label it. I can remember the arguments about what is ROCK and what is COUNTRY and what the hell is ALT.COUNTRY and a friend (and lead singer of my favorite band) said it best when he said (paraphrasing) we don't make rock music or country music, we just make music. He then went on to ask why we have to label everything. I agree with him completely.

  • @brrrse  Feb 2018

    What @tcelliott said.

  • @tuneslayer2018  Feb 2018

    All lyrics are poetry, in my humble opinion, but not all poetry is lyrics. Try writing a tune for "The Waste Land" or "Song Of Myself" for instance.

    All of the lyrics I post go to songs. I just haven't transferred the melody part from my head into a form someone besides me can hear.

  • @rayboneor  Feb 2018

    So, a group of hunters sees a squirrel on a tree...

  • @brrrse  Feb 2018

    or maybe it's more like the blind men and the elephant

  • @zecoop  Feb 2018

    @tcelliott - Pig on toilet for the win, once again. Don't ever change. 😀

  • @stephenwordsmith  Feb 2018

    Or the blind elephants and the man

    (Spoiler: They all agreed men were flat)

  • @morti Feb 2018

    The way I figure it, FAWM is a personal challenge and I don't need to prove to you or anybody else that I made a song so long as I know I made a song. If I know I've done 14 songs, I win!

    I think that the people who write just lyrics probably had a tune in their heads as they were doing it. That's what makes them songs rather than poems. Just because you don't get to hear the part that makes it a song doesn't mean it's not there.

  • @johnstaples  Feb 2018

    @morti well said!

  • @tunecat  Feb 2018

    Yeah. I've ended up doing spoken word over music... I reckon that isn't really a song.. I call anything that doesn't have chord changes, a "track" whether it has words or not. But then that's only my terminology. It seems that this FAWM I've only done tracks - mostly with crazy, spoken word madness over the top. I don't feel its exactly what the name is on the tin, but I get the impression that this community has at its heart the spirt of inspiring ourselves, giving us access to lots of other people doing music at different stages, and with different strengths. I'm really thankful and glad I've been able to post whatever kind of thing I've come up with .

  • @moonshadow Feb 2018

    The simple answer to this is no
    poetry if far more complex than simple lyrics
    it has rhythm and meter with Iambs, Trochees, Spondees, Dactyls, and Anapests
    poetry is far more complex than just rhyming a few sentences
    i suggest anyone who thinks otherwise to read a book on how to learn poetry,
    I will admit though i have seen some people on this site who do post poems.
    but a poem can be turned into a song
    so does it really matter?

  • @stephenwordsmith  Feb 2018

    It would be tempting to say that lyrics are a subset of poetry.

    But some of the lyrics to recorded tracks on FAWM are unabashedly prose, prose which has been wrought into a song lyric through the magic of the conventions of song composition.

    @helenseviltwin's 'Shrubbery' (from 2008) was the first two paragraphs of a Wikipedia article, carefully woven into a non-rhyming poetic metre intertwined with the underlying demo.

    @errol and @pifie did a song for which the lyric was the series of instructions required to complete an old Infocom text adventure. It's possibly the most well-known FAWM song outside of our own universe.

    Of course, removing the instrumentation but keeping the pause, intonation and stressing in mind, we see that these works of prose take on a poetic quality when placed back in the context of silence *takes shot*. So perhaps these are prosaic works that undergo a necessary conversion to poetry in order to work.

  • @stephenwordsmith  Feb 2018

    Even outside of this, of course, there are Spoken-word pieces and similar which, stripped of the trappings of music, would simply be works of prose in their own right.

    So, there's a difference.

  • @sheilerk  Feb 2018

    I know in Nashville songwriting credit goes to all participants equally, whether you wrote the lyrics or the music or helped with both, it's all songwriting. I'm a member of ASCAP. They seem to think I'm a songwriter 😉

  • @declan  Feb 2018

    I tend to think the difference is the rhythm in a poem comes from metre of the words whereas the rhythm of a song comes from the music.

    Therefore lyrics only really become lyrics once they’re set to music.

  • @onewholovesrock Feb 2018

    I realized early on I wasn’t going to be able to write 14 song lyrics and put them to music with a recording. So this time around I’m just writing lyrics. Currently they don’t have music, most or all probably never will unless I happen to finally write something worthwhile. But they’re definitely song lyrics. Maybe they’re poems too. I wouldn’t know.

  • @tsunamidaily Feb 2018

    i think hank williams sr is a good example for this discussion. i think of him as the greatest american songwriter, myself. he definitely has the best hit to dross ratio of any songwriter-- 35 singles certified top 10 on the country and western charts, out of 66 songs recorded in his lifetime, out of 155 total lyrics written. he had spoken word pieces, poems, for his "luke the drifter" character, and out of those, only one was set to a melody-- "i'm so lonesome i could cry." a friend commented that it would work as a song so he realized it that way. it was a B-side (!) to "my bucket's got a hole in it" because upbeat songs were the ones that became hits, it was thought at the time. it made it to number 4.
    it is different from any of his lyrics. it is clearly a poem, on paper, and could be the first recorded example of a poem set to music.
    some of his lyrics which were never set to music were recorded in the "lost notebook" project. they had quite a few to pick from, as he did not even record half of what he wrote. i have heard of a related story about willie dixon where they found an army trunk completely filled with lyrics which were never recorded. so, the practice of writing lyrics that are not, or indeed are never, set to music is a time-honored one.
    the fact is, so few lyrics work as poetry that i am confused how the two could in any way, shape or form be conflated.

  • @klaus  Feb 2018

    Lyrics are all about structure, rhythm and singability. Of course It's also about ideas and expressing feelings and meanings, but if the verses don't match and the words are hard to sing then it's not a lyric, it's probably a poem. 😞

  • @tuneslayer2018  Feb 2018

    @tsunamidaily Woody Guthrie is another example. He left behind a ton of unset lyrics, most of them not put to music because his Huntington's disease had progressed to where he could only do the lyrics. Some of those lyrics were much later set to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco and a few made it to a Grammy-winning album, "Mermaid Avenue." One of the songs from that album ("Way Down Yonder In The Minor Key") is in my regular repertoire.

  • @scottlake  Feb 2018

    Is Elton John the songwriter or is it Bernie Taupin?

  • @standup  Feb 2018

    I notice the OP is totally absent from this discussion.

  • @stephenwordsmith  Feb 2018

    Well, he expressed an opinion and was met with 54 disagreements. Even delivered in the best faith, that's going to look a little unaccommodating.

    If the central thesis of his argument was in fact 'I came here expecting <songcount> to reflect <songcount> unique playable demos! Half of the <songcount> songs don't qualify as this!' Then, he isn't wrong.

    But if this primarily an assertion that all unaccompanied lyrics=poetry, then I think we've delivered a reasonable counterargument.

  • @totallynotaspambot Feb 2018

    Poems or not, as long as the ones and zeroes make a beautiful line. Beep!

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    music , like meter, rhyme, metaphor, and symbol, is simply an element of poetry that may or may not be used by the poet. sometimes worlds are not enough and a poem needs music to give it life. look at the poem kaddish by allen ginsberg and the song sad eyed lady of the lowlands by bob dylan. the intent is esssentially the same in each piece, but ginsberg sings withut the music, while dylans words are dead o the page without them. yet i dind dyland song a more deeply poetic work than ginsbergs poem. sure, there are fantastic lyricists such as hal david who lyrics have little poetic value, but there are also pets who write songs, or sometimes just song lyrics, and some of those lyrics are fulfilled by music and assume poetic value, other, such as much of the work of blake and dickenson, sing without music and thus are songs.

  • @tcelliott  Feb 2018

    @standup @stephenwordsmith To be fair to @pabrizzer he did say 'surely' words. If he was referring to a specific song post as opposed to songs in general, he could have a valid point. Regardless, he's entitled to his opinion. My only complaint is making a huge generality that could put off a lyricist and possibly cause them to not participate (even if it's unintended) is not something I would like to see the forum. Luckily, it's just my opinion and no-one has to go by the rules of T.C.

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    here is a question for those who dod not believe a song lyric can be a poem......when a poem is set to musc, does it cease being a poem? is it now a lyric? keep in mind that many of the great classical composers wrote songs, and used existing poetry for the lyric.

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    for those who dont believe song lyrics can be poetry, listen to some of the songs frances smith has written. she is a true poet working in the song idiom, and the music and voice are essential elements of her poetry.

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    i have a sneaking suspicion that the resistance of some fahmers to lyrcs being accepted as songs is the simple fact that lyricists tend to post a lot more work than the songwriters. those who are counting may feel the lyricist with 50 songs has won the race against the songwriter whoc and barely manage fourteen. i am sure this is not true with everybody who does not believe a lyric alone is a song, but i would bet on its being a factor tosome of the discontented.

  • @bithprod Feb 2018

    I write poetry, I write song lyrics, and sometimes I write poetic song lyrics. My approach is very different when I write poetry, as opposed to when I write something that is meant to be set to music. Usually. There are no rules. My friend once composed a melody for the first chapter of a book which I accidentally sent him along with a couple of lyrics. He thought it was just free form poetry/lyrics and saw it as a challenge.

  • @brrrse  Feb 2018

    everyone has to argue. why?

  • @billwhite51 Feb 2018

    i dont see any argument here. simpy the sharing of opinions.

  • @sbs2018 Feb 2018

    I did get a couple of comments about my songs being poetry but I take that as a compliment - Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan are quite poetic. Also interesting that Berklee songwriting professor Pat Pattison also teaches poetry and the songwriting class focuses mostly on lyrics.

  • @adforperu  Feb 2018

    Who's to say that the lyrics people are uploading aren't already part of a song they have no means to record? Or no skills to do some, but have a melody in their head? Maybe they're too shy to upload?

  • @paulh1237  Feb 2018

    A different way to think of this might be that the title of the website is fawm, album writing month not song writing month. Albums are full of tracks that might be argued to be 'not songs' if you are that way inclined, whether it's silent tracks, spoken word only tracks or otherwise - they still improve the 'album experience' in my opinion so are completely valid to this exercise 😁

  • @corinnelucy  Feb 2018

    I wrote a song with @tiedyehero where he sent me the lyrics and I set them to music. To me, what made them lyrics rather than poetry was the way they held obvious places for a repeating rhythm, and of course the cyclical structure of the parts. I think there's no hard-and-fast line between the two art-forms, and ultimately, I think the difference is in the intention... Maybe... Although I could be wrong...

  • @tiedyehero Feb 2018

    I agree @corinnelucy, with that there are no hard and fast lines. It seems to me that upon close scrutiny, art, like so many other things we experience as humans (suffering, joy, love, relationships) resist categorization. so for me, embracing ambiguity and paradox is the way to go

  • @spinhead  Feb 2018

    @paulh1237 When the Clancy Brothers performed Irish folk songs live, there was always always the recitation of a poem somewhere in there. Tom Clancy's recitation of Yeats' "The Host of the Air" is music to me.

    I'd love to hear back from @pabrizzer in hopes they didn't feel attacked by all this (@stephenwordsmith made a valid point up there.) The fact that this DOES come up every single year should tell us old FAWMers that it's not the ravings of a troublemaker, but most likely an informed opinion which doesn't happen to coincide with yours. Or mine. Or whatever.

  • @postcardhelicopters  Feb 2018


  • @autoclamp  Feb 2018

    "Surely this has come up before....."

    It has come up before... and don't call me Shirley.

  • @spinhead  Feb 2018

    Wait; you're not the Shirley @Autoclamp I went to school with?

  • @autoclamp  Feb 2018

    @spinhead No, but I get that a lot. It's to do with the beard.

  • @dwarvenlover Feb 2018

    making plausible music or framework is easy. writing something can be easy. but writing meaninful texts or to have a backbone to sing banalities takeeeesss the cake

  • @kevinemmrich  Feb 2018

    I tend to shy away from lyric-only offerings (except if I am involved in a skirmish or folks that I have known here a while). Why? -- they are much harder to comment on than songs! (OK, songs with music -- ha, ha). I actually have to read the words and see if I can figure out what is going on. I guess I am one of those where the lyrics are secondary until I have heard the song a time or two and then I decide to dig into what is being said.
    Technically I agree that lyrics aren't songs and about 20-25% of the offerings here start out as lyric only. The good news is that most of the lyric-only folks here pay good attention to meter/cadence/stressed syllable count/ that make it easier to put a melody/harmony to it.
    I think I will have to seek out some lyric-only pieces tonight (I still have to finish the sunday skirmish listening/commenting).

  • @johnfahres Feb 2018


    Yeah he dropped that bomb and split! HA! I get his point, but ultimately there have been great arguments here for a lyricist writing lyrics (Bernie Taupin the prime example) as constituting musical composition, so... there you have it.

  • @declan  Feb 2018

    So after stating that lyrics and poems are different, I converted a villanelle into a song. I suppose that form does have repetition and refrains that lend it more to song.

  • @tsunamidaily Feb 2018

    just as a humorous note, you can sing most emily dickinson to your choice: amazing grace,
    yellow rose of texas,
    the theme song to gilligan's island,
    house of the rising sun,
    or i'd like to teach the world to sing.

    i'm sure there are more.

    Because I could not stop for Death –
    He kindly stopped for me –
    The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
    And Immortality....

  • @spinhead  Feb 2018

    That poem + Yellow Rose = Monty Python

  • @russiasaturn Feb 2018

    Everyone else already said it, and said it better, but I can't help and throw my words in too. Just for fun, even though my first thought was "what...??" I stopped to consider your question logically. And I decided to look up the definition of a song, always helpful. The dictionary partly defines a song as, "a set of words set to music or meant to be sung."

    The key is *meant* to be sung. So objectively, if we're looking for an educated and authoritative answer, if you write words without music that you *intend* to sing (or have someone else sing), that's a song. Simple as that.

    What I love about FAWM is how everyone here is so respectful even when we passionately disagree. You are of course entitled to your opinion, as others said. What I'd ask, though, is you keep it as your opinion rather than declaring it as fact. I hope I still sound respectful as I want to convey that, but I also feel strongly about this. I don't know if I added to the conversation but as a poet *and* lyricist I

  • @andygetch  Feb 2018

    (1) As I post this there are 5,077 songs posted (as defined here). Of those 5,073 songs, 4,145 have demo recordings. That is 81.6% of the songs or 330 recordings per day.
    (2) As noted above, there are other challenges and online groups that require posting of recorded music. National Solo Album Month (in November) is one that requires posted recordings. As noted above, FAWM is not. To each their own.
    (3) National Poetry month and an associated challenge National Poetry Writing Month, happens in April.

  • @stephenwordsmith  Feb 2018

    I have written a lyric summarising the debate on this thread:

    ... or is it a poem?

  • @stephenwordsmith  Mar 4

    And now, it has been put to music. A big thank you to @erikdidriksen

  • @jcooper  Mar 4

    I have to agree with @klaus on this one. The lyrics on which I choose to collaborate are what I call “Well crafted lyrics”. On top of an excellent idea, they need to have a singable rhythm. They need to have some sort of structure (like the rhythm and rhyme structure of the versus needs to be the same) the words themselves need to be singable and also fairly simiple. (I once wrote a song with the word “helicopter” in it ! Not good). If the lyrics dont have all this they should probably remain a poem or spoken word over a musical bed. But yes a lyric is a song that does not yet have music to it.

  • @kevinemmrich  Mar 4

    Took my love for a ride in a helicopter
    Made a turn, almost dropped her
    I knew our love was over
    should have rented a chopper

    O helicopter, helicopter
    should have made a dinner of lobster
    it was for a proposal
    but she threw my ring
    in the garbage disposal

  • @jcooper  Mar 4

    Ha ha @kevinemmrich you see what I mean?

  • @cynthiawolff  Mar 4

    There is enough us and them mentality going on in the world, let's keep this as our safe haven..

    I would say that a lyricist writes words with a song structure in mind.

    My husband is a poet and I cannot sing any of his poems...he writes them with a visual in they look on the page..

  • @owl  Mar 4

    @jcooper i fail to see a problem with the word "helicopter"... there's a song by M. Ward with that title that's fantastic:

  • @klaus  Mar 6

    Couldn't agree with you more @jcooper.

    I can understand why it's hard to write well crafted lyrics. There are so many things you have to consider fitting your ideas into some sort of crosswordy mould. It takes time and we don't have much time in Fawm. But basically it is a craft, it can be learned. And the benefits are many. Well crafted lyrics are:

    - Easy and quick for the musician to put to music
    - Easy for the musician to learn how to sing and demo
    - Easy for listener to listen, understand and memorize and even sing along.

    For the lyrics-only writer it could mean his lyrics get more collab request. Everybody wins. If we only had more time...

    And I agree about the helicopter. In a ballad or soft singing the "p" followed by "t" is not the best option for a smooth legato melody. 😀 I have trouble with the "th" sound like many non native English speakers have. And if the word is in plural and has "th" in the end, that's a real mega joy to sing: booths, breaths, lengths... goths... 😀

  • @lemonstar Mar 7

    I write more poetry than songs and if you write both you could write at length about why they are definitely not the same. When i have ideas I genuinely have no idea or even a preference for what form the idea will develop into. In some cases it can be both but they are never anything like each other. The topic to me looks like trolling tbh - as I'm in a hurry to do something else atm I'm not going to write at length on this (may come back later) - briefly - one or two points - in poetry to read quietly in your head or to read aloud you have the option to continually (i.e. line by line of need be) change the line lengths and syllable counts, places of emphasis, ... anything and everything - to mange and control the weight of focus, the dwell time on the imagery, the meaning, the poignancy or whatever you are trying to put across - you are not being driven by any other agenda - by where you are in the melody or which bar you are on.

  • @lemonstar Mar 7

    I find when singing I can do a great deal more with stretching the time spent on singing certain syllables in words - stretching out (or significantly contracting) the time spent on one syllable in a way which would sound ridiculous if you were reading (quietly or aloud). The sensibilities, for me, often seem quite different - what you write about and how you write about something (certainly in the poetry I write). In poetry I am often trying to put into words those seemingly hard to define things in life that are paradoxically, often so important and sometimes it would take more words than I would feel comfortable using if I tried to write about the same thing in a song - of course this is all very specific to me and for some of you reading this - it may not be the same. Sometimes I have made up music to go with a poem written by another writer but.. not that often - you can find things if you look. In many songs lyrics I see poetic elements, fragments of lines that could appear in

  • @lemonstar Mar 7

    ...a poem - more often I see poetic ideas in songs - ideas that could be used in a piece of poetry.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 7

    a song is a song even before it has music

  • @lowhum  Mar 7

    @billwhite51 There's always this sweet spot - should it stay a poem or is it a song in there - that's for everyone to decide - there's examples of both and all on all kinds of scales - musical poem with no words - song with no music - I guess you can lay yourself down on any wavelength of the spectrum - these days it's probably all about PR&marketing 😀) So if we could get a grip on that secret/sacred chord... we could easily bottle the blood of the poets!

  • @eargoggle  Mar 7

    This is a really interesting thread...and i think it's a valid question, though I personally come down more on the side with many people here in thinking that it's a song if you say it's a song and that poetry is different than lyrics.

  • @lowhum  Mar 7

    A poem could always become a song - what about the other way round?

  • @tcelliott  Mar 7

    Is repetition a sign of a lyric vs a poem? (Not a/the defining factor, mind you.) Even the No Chorus week one challenge featured a great many songs with a refrain or repeated bridge or some sort of repetition. And yes I like poems with repetition, too, but it's one of the few generalities I can come with to differentiate the two.

  • @tsunamidaily Mar 7

    A bell is a cup
    Until it is struck

  • @lowhum  Mar 7

    According to some famous books there were different things in the beginning - some say light, some say sound, some say words... elephants... IMHO the focus should be on creation.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 7

    @lowhum wasnt that the quest of the round table knights? to bottle the blood of a poet? or at least find the bottle that contained it? to the rest,
    I'll say it again... a poem is the song that doesnt need music to make it sing. lyric poetry is one of the lower poetic forms, and these are the poems that cannot be sung without music.

  • @lowhum  Mar 7

    @billwhite51 yeah, who's the 1st bloody poet! It's always that ultimate quest to get to that first moment of creation, before philosophy and critics get in - I guess you could always "rate" a song in ways and waves to how far it stretches the energy back to an imaginary Big Bang or whatever you have as a beginning, end or daily motion of the spheres involved - losing the centre and acquiring one at the same time- lots of hangovers for sure, but a couple of sparks in between 😀)

  • @toms  Mar 8

    Hey, wait, philosophy always makes things better! (Said the philosophy teacher)

  • @yam655 Mar 8

    When you create sheet music with LilyPond, the lyricist is defined using the term "poet".

    Sheet music is far older than audio recordings, and the poet is one of three people that own copyright on a piece of sheet music, the others being the composer and arranger.

    Now, modern songwriting frequently has a single person who does four different roles, the poet, composer, arranger and performer.

    But as far as song _writing_ goes, you simply need one of the three, either a poet, composer or arranger. This is what is legally required to create a new copyright for a piece of sheet music.

    Mind you, we don't see pure arrangers at FAWM. I suspect most people here don't consider _that_ to be songwriting, even though it does create a new copyright.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 8

    @yam655 these distinctions are all up to the creators. for instance, the doors gave the whole band crditr for everything, lennon and mccartney shared credit on each others songs, morrisey and marr were sued by their drummer and bass player for arrangement credit, bob dylan steal liberally from everywhere everybody and everythng and usually takes full credit for the song. it really depends on how much power the writer, producer, and performer have. for example, many songwriters have been forced to share writing credit with the producer and or the performer if they wanted to sell their song, so you see a lot of collaborations that were entirely written by one person.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 8

    @lowhum you are right. we will never know who the first bloody poet was, or how the univere was created. we can start with gilgamesh or the big bang, but beginnings are subjective, depending on the point at which we came into the story. have you read camille paglias sexual persons, in which she creates a historical time line of poetry as it might have exiisted had spenser rather than chaucer been considered the father of english poetry? with either one, i see a degeneration of poetry after the elizabethan era, and a virtual end to the practice in the 20th century. but then, there are thsw who believe the world ended in 1914, and others who have died since then who believe they are still alive, and we may now be dreamwalking through a word of people who have not yet been born. at least one thing the bible got tight, we see through a glass darkly.

  • @devin  Mar 8

    “Lots of hangovers for sure, with a couple of sparks inbetween”

    - @lowhum 2018

    Genius summary....

  • @rainchaser  Mar 8

    A lyric is a song. As it's really meant to be sung than read.

  • @klaus  Mar 8

    @tcelliott I agree. Lyrics use repetition ( for example choruses, refrains, individual lines ) in a whole different level than poems. This happens because lyrics need to fit the music and music is so much based on repetition.

    Even if you just listen somebody speak, with many identical repeats your ears start to hear a distinct melody in the words. It's been scientifically proved Diana Deutsch, and is called speech to music illusion.

    You can hear it yourself:

  • @lowhum  Mar 8


    I've been reading late
    some canterbery tales
    got the first edition
    from a trustworthy mate

    but you know, babe,
    spencer's my guy
    he's got the knights and queens
    they just lie on the grass

    you know what I mean

    don't jump to conclusions
    when you play in a band
    coz we're all bloody poets
    we;re all in the game

    the game might be crooked
    but it's the only one in town
    so wipe the dust off your page
    go make some sounds

    the songs are not over
    they've just begun
    so let;s bang it big
    and have some fun

  • @tcelliott  Mar 8

    @klaus Video unavailable.. at least for me.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 9

    @lowhum I'll drink to that!" (who was it that said poetry died on the day the poet demanded he be paid in coin rather than in wine?)

  • @toms  Mar 9

    @billwhite51 , that was probably a record company exec, or whatever the equivalent is for poets. 😁

  • @billwhite51 Mar 9

    @toms i wonder what the poet equivilat for a recoed exec would be...but the reference here is to the moment when poetry ceased to be the music of revery and became an academic practice for stiffs. it was cited in some book by rbert graves, perhaps the white goddess, but i forgot who made the observation. back to modern times, ihave found that record execs hate poets, because they themselves lonng ago gave up on becoming one, and set aabout devising a system for destroying them.

  • @ianuarius  Mar 9

    Wait.... Poets get paid?

  • @billwhite51 Mar 9

    $20 a pop if you now how to swing it. but the real money is in giving readings at universities, or for the womens garden societies if you are handsome enough to get the gig. if you fail at these opportunities, you will be lucky to get a dollar for a mimeographed copy in the street. night owls can get more if they wait outside the bar at closing times.

  • @johnstaples  Mar 9

    This has been a really interesting thread. But I will never understand why someone will post a provocative question and then never come back to join in the conversation!

  • @ianuarius  Mar 9

    @johnstaples It's probably either shame or they just left the site never to return.

  • @bitshred  Mar 9

    @johnstaples I believe it's called "trolling"? I don't know either.

  • @toms  Mar 9

    Damned academic stiffs! *waves from his office at the local community college* 😀 (Your diagnosis strikes me as correct, @billwhite51 ! 😀 )

  • @metalfoot  Mar 9

    I think I was paid $20 for my poem that was published in a literary journal many moons ago, and got a couple complimentary copies of the journal for my efforts. I think my FAWM songs have probably been read/heard by more people than that poem has.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 9

    @metalfoot you put your finger riight on the reason i switched from poetry to song in 1966. Like a Rolling Stone was on the radio, annd i realized that the average kid in the street would listen to that song many more times than would the professor of poetry read the waste land.

  • @tuneslayer2018  Mar 9

    LOL . . . I wrote a children's poem and had it published, oh gee it must be about 20 years ago now. Got something like $30 for it. To the best of my knowledge it's sunk without a trace, even among friends and family who know I published it. On the other hand the songs I've written are out there and people are enjoying them on a a regular, if limited, basis.

    It's like Joe Hill said, and I'm paraphrasing: You write a pamphlet and it might get read once before it's tossed out, but you write a song and people sing it over and over and teach it to their friends.

  • @cynthiawolff  Mar 9

    @johnstaples etc...
    I have been following @pabrizzer and think he is very talented...
    an excellent player, fantastic lyrics, and posted quite a few songs which he performed live.he is not a troll. He has participated..He has commented a little bit here and there..
    I think he just expressed what he was feeling and then let everyone else do the same..

  • @klaus  Mar 11

    @tcelliott Sorry, I thought I checked it right after posting.

    It's in YouTube, "Speech to Music Audio Illusion" posted by jrule flash. It's only 53 seconds long. If you haven't heard it it's definitely worth a listen.

  • @lowhum  Mar 11

    @billwhite51 Yeah, songs are much more fun - for the writer, singer, composer, (arranger?), audience (if it gets there 😀). Poems are much harder to write due to the huge academic critical mass and they rarely make people dance (if not set to the right tune 😀). Though I might use the advice about women garden societies when they put me on the shelf next to the classics...

  • @billwhite51 Mar 11

    @lowhum lest we forget, there is one advantage to reciting poetry as opposed to singing songs. the girls
    who want to hang out with you after the show might actually have listened to the words, and have some interesting things to say about them. musician groupies are really a drag, at least in the united states.

  • @tcelliott  Mar 11

    Wait. You get musician groupies?

  • @billwhite51 Mar 11

    that was badly stated. i meant the girls who hang around musicians

    (mod note - the poster has flagged their own posts. You should be able to edit what you said.)

  • @owl  Mar 11

    ^ cool way to be alienating to female musicians

  • @billwhite51 Mar 11

    Why is that? Female musicians have their groupies as well.

  • @kevinemmrich  Mar 11

    Let's get back to a less risky dirt road -- "lyrics without music are just poems" -- Feel free to discuss.

  • @zecoop  Mar 11

    This is just a poem
    it doesn't even rhyme
    I don't want to be a song...
    unless someone made me into a song
    But that will never happen
    I wonder if that would make me a song in the first place?

  • @billwhite51 Mar 11

    @kevinemmrich we have run that topic into the ground. what lowhum and i had morphed into was d discussion of the relative pleasure of being a poet or a songwriter. my misunderstood comment was simply that poetry audiences were more intelligent than the audiences at rock concerts. making the after show parties more intellectually stimulating than what goes on backstage after the band finishes playing.

  • @toms  Mar 11

    Hey, @zecoop
    How much does
    Your free verse

  • @zecoop  Mar 11

    @toms - mentally it was extremely expensive. It costs less than that doggie in the window.

  • @owl  Mar 12

    Sorry, @billwhite51, came home late from a show last night and my "don't pick fights on the internet" filter was off. I know you had no bad intentions and I understand the point you were trying to make! Regardless of any semantic nitpicking, I'm sure you also understand the point I was trying to make about whether certain kinds of talk make the atmosphere comfortable for women or subtly unwelcoming. But I'll leave that dead horse alone.

    I think almost anything can become a lyric with enough effort but the reverse is not true--there are many lyrics that sound fine when sung but look totally inane and uninteresting when committed to the page. There is a lot of overlap in the poetry/lyrics Venn diagram but there are definitely outliers that can only stand as one or the other. Intent seems most important to me, if a piece of writing is meant to eventually go with music, I'd consider it a lyric rather than a poem, regardless of whether the music exists yet, and regardless of whether there

  • @owl  Mar 12

    ...whether there's repetition or rhyme or consistent meter involved. To some extent it's a case of "I'll believe it when I hear it"--sometimes I see lyrics that I read and I can't understand how they'd possibly work musically, but they turn out great when put to music. Or vice versa, lyrics that look good on the page but are completely unwieldy when sung.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 12

    i agree with most of what you are saying. my lyrics look terrible on the page. for me, the objective is to find the words that turn a musical phrase into a hook. an acquaintance of mine from england who had a rather successful run during the britpop era once told me how acommon, unpoetic phrase became almost anthemic when sung. and i have found the same is true in my work. some of the most memorable hooks are simple phrases that only become meaningful through the emotional delivery of the melody. ive done a lot of collabs with acoustic maddie, and when i see a lyric of hers that i am drawn to...the music starts coming out of me the instant i pick up the guitar. there is no composition involved. the music is already in the words. it is a lot harder to set a poem to music. the most successful attempts, in my opinion, are in the classical field, with the art songs of schubert or the neo classical songs of charles ives. it is extremely diffiult to pull it off in modern pop music.

  • @nancyrost  Mar 12

    Such a rich topic, but for now, I'm just going to leave this here:

  • @kevinemmrich  Mar 12

    @nancyrost : That is a wonderful collection of pop songs turned into sonnets. I know there are 14 lines, but I thought there was only one allowed rhyme scheme. Wikipedia tells me otherwise (I guess I might have known that at one time).

  • @nancyrost  Mar 12

    @kevinemmrich - and the author is fawmer @erikdidriksen!

  • @tsunamidaily Mar 12

    i found a quote that left this subject even murkier, seemingly taking both sides. sigh.

    Journalists, for the most part, always tend to tune into a lyric. I've never wanted to print my lyrics on my LPs because lyrics are not poetry. They're part of songwriting; they're coloring, and they have to be heard at the same time as the music.

    -- Billy Joel

  • @owl  Mar 13

    @nancyrost @erikdidriksen these are amazing, haha! Thanks for sharing them.

  • @scottlake  Mar 13

    this thread is still going?

  • @owl  Mar 13

    @scottlake well how are we going to win the HUGE CASH PRIZE you get for reaching 14 songs unless we sort out EVERY technicality about what "counts" as a "song"?

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