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Are Songs Poetry?

The linguist Edward Sapir said, “Poetry everywhere is inseparable in its origins from the singing voice and the measure of the dance”. But does that mean songs are poetry put to music; or that lyrics without the music are poems?

Music has always been a form of art. The Poetry Foundation, which is a great home-ed poetry resource, lists over 400 poems that are intrinsically intertwined with music, and says this about music and poetry:

Poetry and Music

The above text has so much to offer as a lesson before even beginning to answer the question, ‘Are Songs Poetry?’:

  • Run through vocab – antiquity, anthology, troubadour, unprecedented
  • Explore the lyre – what type of instrument is it? Find it, listen to it, draw it
  • What can you find out about the Shijing?
Shijing: Chinese Literature

Britannica is always a good starting point for history-based research.

(N.b. If the Shijing sparks curiosity within your homeschoolers, run with it as a lesson – explore Chinese literature/poetry, delve into philosophy by studying Confucius (who compiled the anthology), learn some of the poems and use them as illustrated poetry lessons or have students recite them.)

Think of the first reading as an introduction to the topic – a lesson intro to get brains into thinking mode.

  • Bring them back to the question with a piece of reading that is closer to the answer to the question:

like this piece from the Boston Review

At first glance, the writing (and perhaps the language) might seem too advanced for KS2/3; that’s why home-educating is brilliant. Pupils get the chance for one-on-one lessons with their teacher, which allows you to slowly break down each sentence and talk about the piece as a whole until they understand it. Children are able to grasp far greater concepts and understand more complex language than we often give them credit for: Push them to challenge themselves but be there to make it easy.

Songs aren’t necessarily poetry, but that doesn’t mean the value of lyrics is less educational. Song lyrics, and music as a subject, add a light element into home education that homeschoolers enjoy.

  • Ask homeschoolers to find a song that could be written as a poem; ask them to put a poem to music and make it a song. Explore songwriters and poets, separately and interchangeably: Inspire a love of words in whatever form the words come.