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Poetry and music are more closely related than we think


From punk to poem-songs, the 2016 Poetry and Lyrics festival reveals how music fits into the poetic tradition

The Welsh word “cerdd” can be translated as either “verse” or “music”. It covers both meanings, because, as we know from history, when the great bards were performing their poetry it would be accompanied by music. The two were always intertwined and music, poetry, spoken word and performance have been a part of our society for centuries. The festivals called “eisteddfod” combine literature, music and poetry. These cultural competitions were not just for the rich or educated, but were held in pubs and other meeting places and brought everyone together. They are part of an oral tradition entrenched in Welsh society as it is in many other cultures, as diverse as the Somali tradition of oral storytelling or praise poetry in India and Pakistan.

The Poet in the City festival of Poetry and Lyrics is another way of bringing people together and highlighting the idea that poetry and music are not, and have never really been, separate. The events will delve into the nooks and crannies of many different genres to draw out this connection and show how it lives in unexpected places. Take punk, for example: with the exception of artists such as Patti Smith, it’s not usually associated with poetry. But Steve Lamacq, along with the Adverts’ TV Smith, Pauline Murray of Penetration and Crass’s Penny Rimbaud, will consider a less celebrated side of the movement: the lyrics about tenderness, love and social commentary that articulated a generation’s experience of the world. It is work that fits easily into a poetic tradition.

Related: Poetry expresses what it is to be human – it’s therapy for the soul | Adam O’Riordan

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