Most of you know that I really dislike poetry and I have for a long time. This is one of those things you're not supposed to say if you want to sound moderately intelligent, but it's true. I tried to like Kerouac and stuff, but it wasn't happening. However, I realized that I do like poetry that comes from music (I know it's a little late in life for me to realize this, but bugger off). I must clarify that probably 90% of music is not poetry at all.
Anyway, so I was thinking of my favorites, and some of the choices are obvious, but I don't care. Here's my top five, Hornby-style...
5 - Ben Folds - I am often moved to tears by the incredible elegance of his music independent of any awareness of what he is really writing about. Then I hear him talk about its meaning and things become even more incredible. Plus, anyone gets on the list for writing a song dedicated to my number four pick.
4 - Elliott Smith - What needs to be said of Elliott's transcendent song-writing? Someday when I have a kid, I'm going to name him/her after Elliott Smith in the hopes that he will halfway live up to the breathtaking artistry of his/her namesake.
3 - Nick Drake - We all know (yes, this is one of those times where I take what I think and extrapolate to all people in the hopes that someone agrees with me) that to be incredible, artists have to be troubled. If this carries one to the point of suicide, we know it's the real deal. I'm not trying to make light of suicide. In three short albums, Nick touched the world with much more honesty and brilliance than most people can muster in their entire lives.
2 - Sufjan Stevens - First, I have to put him at least in my top five since I'm from the midwest. His masterful song-writing brings me to a place of such intense emotion that I'm generally not completely comfortable listening to him around other people. What great joy and sorrow are wrought by the golden tongue of Sufjan.
1 - Benjamin Gibbard - I know it's grotesque to place Ole' Ben at the top of this list above the others, but we're talking strictly poetry in music here, not music all around. I place him here because his poetic voice is the most appealing to me. I think that he most embodies poet-as-musician for me. This is especially apparent in his four solo songs on Home Volume Four. I also think that his poetic style has developed over the years into such beauty. I say this because the lyrics that grab and shake me the most come from more recent albums. Musically I prefer earlier stuff, but lyrically, the new stuff is crazy touching. I know he can be overly melodramatic, but I really like it (see comments above). For the sake of brevity, here are a few of my favorite lines sans context...
"Sorrow dripts into your heart through a pinhole.
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound.
But while you debate half-empty or half-full,
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown." -Marching Bands of Manhattan
"And I'm thinking of what Sarah said
That love is watching someone die
So who's gonna watch you die?" -What Sarah Said
And since it's my favorite lyrically overall, here is all of my favorite Ben Gibbard poem...
Title and Registration
The glove compartment is inaccurately named,
And everybody knows it.
So I'm proposing a swift orderly change.
Cause behind its door there's nothing to keep my fingers warm,
And all I find are souvenirs from better times.
Before the gleam of your taillights fading east,
To find yourself a better life.
I was searching for some legal document,
As the rain beat down on the hood.
When I stumbled upon pictures I tried to forget,
And that's how this idea was drilled into my head.
Cause it's too important,
To stay the way it's been.
There's no blame for how our love did slowly fade,
And now that it's gone it's like it wasn't there at all.
And here I rest where disappointment and regret collide,
Lying awake at night.
So there it is. I made a long one here and you just read it and I appreciate and respect you for it. I know the order of my list has no sense of history and there are plenty of people who should have made the list (Devendra Banhart, Leonard Cohen, Damien Jurado, Dan Bejar, etc.) but it's my top five, and I'm not suggesting that it is the best. It's the best for me, cuz I'm real pomo like that. Deal with that, Enlightenment.