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The Mountain Goats Reviewed by a Poet

Should poets review songwriters? Should poetry reviews include lyrics? These questions don’t get asked much anymore, but this GalleyCat Reviews editor loves to think about it.

Poet Jim Fisher championed the work of The Mountain Goats in a Paris Review essay. He encouraged poets to listen to the band led by singer and songwriter John Darnielle to reconnect with rhythm and rhyme in their own poetry.

Here’s an excerpt: “We poets write a lot about the music of poetry, its roots in oral/aural traditions, its rhythm and need to be sounded aloud, but very little about the meter of poetry–meter, which is a requirement of rhythm and of what most Westerners consider song. It’s a missed opportunity, because for metrical verse to work, it doesn’t much matter how the stresses–or pulses–in each measure are perceived. The beat of 3/4 or 4/4 time is as effective a cadence as that of trimeter or tetrameter, and the syncopation of the vocalist as nimble a device for varying those beats as a formal poet’s phrasing. Lyric poetry, after all, was first written for the lyre.”

For more inspiration, check out the video embedded above where the great author Tobias Wolff sings one of the world’s saddest songs along with Darnielle.

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