Over at the Superstition Review, check out my essay On Sondheim and Whether Lyrics Are Poetry.
I wrote about why I don’t think Bob Dylan should have won a Nobel Prize in Literature, using Sondheim–another great storyteller through lyrics and music–as an example. An excerpt:
When people equate lyric writing with poetry, they’re often trying to express how meaningful they found a song. The word “poetry” is associated with depth, so to call something poetic is to say it’s beautiful, eloquent, or profound. Thus, songwriters who are adept at language are called poets despite the fact that they aren’t actually writing poetry.
But to say that lyrics and poetry are the same is to discount the role music plays in a song. Song lyrics, no matter how lovely, are meant to work with music. When you separate one from the other, you’re getting only part of a whole. On the other hand, a poem, as poet Paul Muldoon said, “brings its own music with it.”