Clive Harvey

Clive Harvey


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Marocana film

I seem to recall being taught that verse really should rhyme in some fashion or another to be truly regarded as poetry. Whether or not this is so, this remains my excuse for always having written in this way.

I rather take the view these days that the overall impact of a poem determines its longevity and the extent to which a poem might be effectively sung dictates its chance of popularity. I should explain that, as a song writer and lyricist, I often find myself involuntarily formulating a melody when reading or composing verse.

There are times when I sense this instantly, or rather like a distant but approaching chant, I discover a developing pulse in a run of words which then emerge as the basis for a song. Rhyming lines have the greatest propensity for this as they more often evolve into bubbling interwoven lyrics or most readily transpose into a perfect phrase for a song.

None of this is new. Blake, Burns and many other such gargantuan writers have long since been acclaimed for both their lyrical poems and their suitability for songs and the duality with which their writing prowess can be applied. So addictive is the atmosphere the words of our great masters inspire, so irresistible the tone and texture of their phrasing, their expressive skills would thrive in almost any environment.

Yet the converse is so often the case where popular songs are concerned in spite of their undoubted mass appeal. It may be right to conclude that excessive public exposure carries much of the credit for this, but if this remains an enigma to some then we should certainly find the time to examine this phenomenon with more scrutiny.

Whilst our loyalty to poetry has diminished it may only be the case that we have been distracted away from it. In our modern culture the overwhelming success of Rap as a fanatical means of conveying popular thought is worthy of study. The airwaves are flooded with its monologue narrative and with saturated exposure comes its infectious and inescapable influence. The transmission of slogans and the indoctrination of breaking trends are more forcefully and effectively driven by music than ever.

So what of the fate of the simple poem among all of this. The tool that in such recent history served to spread wisdom and provoke popular thought? Whilst few poetic writers would seek what they would view as cheap quick and transient
success, they still need to be heard to survive. Above all artists need to meet and understand the demands of current tolerance. We are all uncomfortable about change but we have the skill to explore new avenues for increasing the awareness of our work and the enjoyment of it.

We should still reflect on the achievements of those iconic writers from our glorious past. Think of an odd tune score or a mystical theme as you read " in my craft or sullen art" by Dylan Thomas, or try to imagine "Kubla Khan" by Colleridge read to a visual performance on You Tube, or an exquisite composition played to the words of Rupert Brookes " Granchester" or any other well-known nostalgic poem patiently conducted to the tumbling strings of a harp or embellished by the notation of a classical guitar. Perhaps in this way even the most prized of our written heritage might yet become all the more moving and more popular for it.

It all just depends on the poem and the treatment of it. A little extreme to some perhaps. Yet in an ever challenging environment, and as everyone competes with each other more ruthlessly than ever, no stone should remain unturned in the quest to transform our written creativity into irresistible performances.

Clive Harvey