With this post, we welcome poet, singer/songwriter John Zwerenz to the IVC fold. In the piece below, John offers a poet’s perspective on songwriting, discusses the muse and connects the dots between poetry and the art of songcraft.
As a poet, I have always believed that words have the inherent ability to be formed together in such a way as to produce music, not just in a vague sense, but mystically, in a literal sense. The relationship of poetic experiences with that of the songwriter’s are profoundly interwoven, and in some individuals this relationship is a “married” one. For I believe that both poetry and music are inspired by the same muse, or “vassal”. I use the term vassal, because the spirit of the muse is that of a servant. This servant, I am convinced, is an actual benevolent entity owning his/her existence outside of the person of the artist. The artist, ideally, is not the creator of his works, he is merely the instrument of the muse. The muse then is the author and/or creator of the poem or the song. It is my assertion that this mysterious and powerful muse is furthermore herself but a vassal of a force and influence even greater than her own illustrious rank of a muse, a force and influence infinitely greater than the natural and metaphysical stature of the poet, or the songwriter/musician. Such is the creative hierarchy. This situation however is not always the case, for often the artist, whether poet or songwriter, will construct a work independent of the “muse”.
These independent constructions, i.e. poems or songs, are always found by their audience to be inferior compared to the works which are conceived, transferred and inspired by the creative spirit of the muse. Most poetry and music is indeed “tainted” by the very artist who creates his/her own work without the substance, aid and guidance of this seminal and interceding spirit. A songwriter at this point may very well ask: How do I acquire the benefits of this muse’s company to inspire my songwriting? The answer to this age-old question is a very fundamental and simple one: Ask for her help. I say here “her”, yet in your case the muse may indeed be a masculine one. For there are many muses below and above the constellations. Their intentions are to inspire the artist to produce works worthy of man’s dignity.
I will end with a specific focus on the art of songwriting in particular. There are two kinds of composers. The first brand are those who, by a particular grace, are “born” with the muse within them. These songwriters find it rather easy to learn how to play multiple instruments for example, and they write beautiful melodies with the greatest of ease. Some in this class of composers apply lyrics to their works in addition to music. Lyrics serve as yet another instrument in their compositions. For regardless of their meaning(s), the primary purpose of all lyrical endeavors is to accentuate the melody with the right sonic verbiage and often with rhyme. This sonic verbiage and rhyme must serve as the primary harmony of the song. The second kind of songwriters are those who have to diligently labor quite hard at forming their fingers to produce a D chord on their first, or even second, acoustic guitar for instance. This second group of songwriters who are not gifted with the company of a celestial muse can incredibly exceed in talent those who are. Yet this they can only do by reaching out to those good, saintly spirits who are waiting with bated breath to be asked to serve the lonely, isolated and exiled songwriter.
-Posted by John
John Lars Zwerenz is an American poet and singer/songwriter. Associated with both romantic and impressionistic verse, John has published four books of poetry, the latest of which is entitled “Sonnets of Dusk and Dawn”.