Many of us went through the bad poetry phase during our teenage years. Most of it was pretty awful. Dark, morbid, badly written. Luckily this expression of angsty melancholy dissipated with age ( well for most of us anyway). At some point the majority figure out that sitting around and arguing about the colour of curtains – are they peach or pink? Just doesn’t really get you anywhere. Goon and smokes, parents garages, rock classics, the philosophising, the pontificating, the witticisms were a period or at the very least a phase that one grew out of, moved on from.
This has been a really hard post to write. What started out as a kind of review of Coldplay’s song Clocks turned into an adventure into the history of modern literature and poetry. Now how does what I have just written about relate to what I am now writing about? Let me explain. Coldplay? Why? Well I’ve always like Chris Martin’s lyrics. But once I started digging into why one writes what they write in the time in which they write it. I had to embrace the fact that Chris Martin’s lyrics – although they ‘work’ with the music and can be quite cleverly rhymed are really in the context of writing and literature abstract poetry. I call lyrics poetry simply because in Latin the verb ‘poieo’ mean to create. Lyrics are created and I believe can be some of the most powerful poetry to listen to.
Abstract Poetry was a term popularised by Dame Edith Sitwell in the early 1920’s. It was actually the Futurists and Dadaists who were the pioneers of sound poetry. Abstract poetry or sound poetry ‘is verse that makes little sense grammatically and syntactically but relies on auditory patterns to create its meaning and poetic effects.’ That is it sounds good but it doesn’t really mean a hell of a lot.
If you analyse Coldplay’s Clocks it does say something but in a very abstract way. It points to ideas but doesn’t specifically create a narrative. For example:
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know, singing…..
What does it mean? It could mean a number of things and that is beauty or the downfall of sound/abstract poetry.
Okay so what does that all mean in terms of Clock’s by Coldplay? Does the the abstract nature of their lyrics make them ( the lyrics) more versatile and relevant to a broad audience. Maybe that is part of Coldplay’s success. They don’t say much, or what they do say can be interpreted in so many different ways that it has a relevance to a wide group of listeners. Just thinking that that really bad poetry that one used to write may have a place somewhere! Now that I know that it has a proper name and is a real genre of writing there may be hope for angsty wordsmiths with a penchant for wordplay after all.