HOW TO INSULT A SONGWRITER: CALL HER A POET
Across the desk, music publisher Rick Shelton smiled brightly at me and said, “You’re a poet.”
Why did I feel like I’d just been slapped? Because I’m a would-be songwriter, not a poet. I don’t want to be a poet. Nobody wants poetry anymore, if they ever did.
To say “you’re a poet” means you sit in your ivory tower and torture the English language to make obscure points people don’t care about. A poet is like a painter of portrait miniatures. It takes painstaking skill, but nobody wants it. Why would you carry a painted miniature of your loved one in your pocket when you could carry a photograph—on your smart phone?
Poets are obsolete. They’ve all turned into bloggers, novelists, or songwriters.
Songwriters, on the other hand, are down-to-earth, singing about universals that EVERYBODY cares about: love, sex, beer, and the past. Their language is colloquial. You probably said most of those lyrics yesterday in conversation with your ex- or your dog. And the rhymes? Well, we forgive the songwriters for that—it helps us learn the chorus so we can sing along. Songwriters are just alright. They get us and we get them.
In fact, the majority of us say we LOVE music, and we don’t mean that weird jazz or boring Beethoven stuff. We love country, pop, rock-and-roll, blues and R&B. We love music, so we LOVE songwriters.
We don’t love poets. Never did. Our old-maid English teachers tried to make us like poems, but it never took. Why can’t poets say what they mean? Poets suck.
And that’s why I wasn’t pleased to be labeled “poet” in the song-publisher’s office. It was the kiss of death.
Does anybody know if Poet’s Market is still in print?