Poetry is defined as an expression of strong feelings by using different stylistic literary devices to trigger emotional response. These devices include use of rhythm and rhyme. The poetry known during the ancient time has gone through reinvention leading to a modern poetry which has been said to be hard to define. The central trait to any poetry work is that it must possess the power to evoke emotional reaction from the person reading or listening. In the most common and definable characteristic of poets is that employ the economy of language in their works. The careful selection and usage makes poetry distinct from other genres of literature (Williams, 1987).

On the other hand, a song lyric is defined as words arranged together to constitute a song. The lyric is made up of verses and choruses which are clearly aligned together. The use of song lyrics literature is widespread and many people find it appropriate to express themselves through song lyrics (Williams, 1987).

Differences between song lyrics and poetry

The distinction between poetry and songs lyrics is hard to make. The most guiding basic principle is whether there are notable meaningful differences between a song and a poem. A song lyric can be said to put a lot of its weight in the rhythmic voices even if they do not make any sense. Unlike song lyric, a poet diligently selects the words to be used in the poem and puts them together to create a meaningful work. The poem may be employing lyrics but the basic differentiating factor is that the lyrics must make sense. Song lyrics major on the voices or sounds but a poem greatly seeks to a carry a message by using words which pass on that meaning. Poems are said to be for the educated while song lyrics are for every one since a lyric may be making sense to a person even when they do not understand the meaning. The said explanation can be supported by looking at the poem “When to Her Lute Corinna Sings”. The poem makes rhymes at the end of the stanzas creating lyrics but the words selected for the lyrics make sense to the reader (Williams, 1987).

In Michael Harper’s, “Dear John, Dear Coltrane”, the author employs repetition in the sense that the poem looks like a song lyric. However, he evokes deep feelings of love and admiration which make it a poem and not a song lyric. In the Bob Dylan’s, “Mr. Tambourine Man” the lyrics create impressive rhythmic voices which makes the listener want to listen without a search for the meaning attached to it. The poem of Robert Hayden, “Homage to the Empress of the Blues” achieves a tremendous impact by exposing the feeling of disappointment and hardships (Booth & Mays, 2010). The trials and tribulations faced by the people at the time are portrayed by using a lyric voice. The poem shows that poetry and song lyrics are distinct in the way the message is conveyed but they can be merged sometimes to send the message. In the song lyrics “Africa Unite” by Bob Marley shows the distinction between a poem and song lyrics. Although the song does not dwell upon making rhythmic sounds only, presence of a chorus makes it a lyric and not a poem. Lastly, In Michael Jackson’s song lyrics of “human nature”, it becomes clear that the stylistic device of using of rhyme and repetition can be applicable to poems and song lyrics (Booth & Mays, 2010).


The foregoing discussion shows that poetry and song lyrics have distinguishable characteristics that are based on the form of writing as well as the message conveyed. The audience of poem and song lyrics differs considerably since poems are said to contain complex language appealing to the educated only.





















Williams, P. T. (1987). Robert Hayden: A critical analysis of his poetry. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Booth, A., & Mays, K. J. (2010). The Norton introduction to literature. New York:W. W. Norton & Co

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