Using song lyrics
An exchange in the Discussion Area led me to thinking that I should flag this up in the Poetry Place. Someone looking for inspiration to get their students into poetry hit on using song lyrics – and it worked! All the ingredients are there: imagery, rhyme, structure…
The key technique, I think, which one of the contributors used, was to ask students to bring in song lyrics themselves. There was a proviso that anything unsuitable would not be used (create your own rules or work them out with the students, and stick to them).
One of the songs brought in was ‘Let there be love’. No, not Nat King Cole, but Oasis. It includes the line “Who stole the soul from the sun in a world come undone at the seams?” If students are happy to deal with a line like that, why would John Donne put them off – it’s just a matter of perception and context.
Unlike much contemporary poetry, song lyrics are widely available on the internet, usually accompanied by a pop video. If your school intranet doesn’t allow access to such things, you (or they) can download the lyrics at home and print them out.
Another example: “She floats like a swan / Grace on the water” from an Echo and the Bunnymen number ‘Lips like sugar’.
Taking it further
Students can write their own lyrics, of course, and if you have a sympathetic music department, you/they might even be able to add music.
Ask them to look for some poems which they think would make good songs. (How would they be performed?) They can keep a list of ones which they think would not, too. Good material for discussion. And GCSE students could try to pick out the best and the worst material for song lyrics in the poems they’ve been asked to study!
I’ve mentioned elsewhere Edna St.Vincent Millay's sonnet 'Time Does Not Bring Relief' which is reproduced as a song on the BBC Learning Zone. Take a look; it’s powerful stuff. (Go to www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/ and type Millay into the search.)