Lyrical Poetry? or Poetic Lyrics?
This poetry collection, my second, is an experiment of sorts. In addition to my novels, short stories and poetry, I have also written song lyrics since my mid-teens. However, not being much a singer and having no musical skills, my lyrics stayed hidden away in file cabinets or inside my computer. I was fearful to show them to anyone and had no way to share them not being part of a band or knowing any musicians who I could collaborate with.
Not too long ago, I came up with the idea to turn my lyrics into poetry and to put them out as a series of poetry collections. The idea seemed so obvious and I have no idea why I didn’t think of it years ago. However, I mostly maintained the original content in converting my lyrics into poetic form. The rhymes and verses were nearly kept the same way as I had written them, but the lyrics are laid out in stanzas and choruses and verses are not spelled out. I also didn’t try to turn these poems into free-form poems or follow the rules of rhyming poetry. My main objective to share the content as honestly and straightforward as I could. This is a compilation of my top lyrics I have written since I began writing again in early 1998 after a 10-year hiatus.
I loved music and songwriting for as long as I could remember. However, hearing Bob Dylan’s HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED at the age 18 changed my life. That level of storytelling, the wild, powerful descriptions as I found in novels, films and poetry, but in song form, fascinated me. Also having a similar impact and influence on me at this time were Bruce Springsteen’s BORN TO RUN, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN, and the RIVER, Tom Petty’s DAMN THE TORPEDOS and HARD PROMISES, The Band’s first two records, John Lennon’s solo works and work with the Beatles, Paul Simon’s early solo records, Curtis Mayfield’s SUPERFLY, Elvis Costello’s MY AIM IS TRUE, THIS YEAR’S MODEL, ARMED FORCES, GET HAPPY, TRUST, Sly Stone’s THERE’S A RIOT GOING ON, Marvin Gaye’s WHAT’S GOING ON , Joni Mitchell’s early records, Patti Smith’s HORSES and EASTER, Neil Young’s RUST NEVER SLEEPS, the Clash’s LONDON CALLING, the Pretenders early albums, X’s LOS ANGELES and WILD GIFT, among many others. There are really are too many to mention. Actually, music was and continues to be a huge influence on me. It is more than an obsession.
My lyric writing is different from my poetry. My lyrics explore more storytelling techniques, and attempt to explore tales of the down and out, disenfranchised, people on the edge and left out of society’s prosperity. For them, the American dream is a sad illusion. In these lyrics, you’ll discover stories about runaways in Hollywood (THE HOLLYWOOD HOMELESS, STEAL YOUR CHILDHOOD AWAY, TRADING DAYS FOR NIGHT), homeless people living under freeways, barely surviving (IS THERE LIFE AFTER YOUR DREAMS DIE?, A CASTAWAY IN AN OCEAN OF CONCRETE), a Latino couple trying build a future for their family out of society’s trash (THE RECYCLING LIFE), forgotten African Americans who came to California to work the fields in search of a better life (LOST IN CALIFORNIA), an Iraqi War veteran struggling to cope (JIMMY ROWE), a frustrated retail worker (WALMART BLUES), drug mules (FULL OF DOPE, FULL OF HOPE), immigrants risking death for better opportunities (DYING OF THIRST), a patient worried about losing healthcare (EIGHT YEARS TO MEDICARE), Katrina survivors (THE LEVEES BROKE, BEING POOR IS OUR ONLY CRIME), war’s aftermath (IN WALTER REED), a failing prison system and drug war (PRISON TIME, INCARCERATION NATION, DRUG WAR BLUES), Native Americans poisoned by radiation (MY RADIATION PRAYER), political grandstanding in the wake of 9/11 (THE 9/11 BLUES), indifferent politicians (DRIVE-BY POLITICIANS) and even singer Hank Williams traveling the dark lost highway (HANK DRANK).
These 100 poems also explore the dark side of love, loneliness, Hollywood dreams, life in Southern California, economic inequity, death, and life’s mysteries and hard-fought victories. I never try to sugarcoat life in Los Angeles, which is both beautiful but heartbreaking at the same time. You can read these as poems, but don’t forget these are lyrics as well. So, my book’s subtitle: “Lyrical poetry or poetic lyrics for a band to be named later, Vol. 1” is partially tongue in cheek, but also truthful. If any singers or musicians out there are truly serious about collaborating to transform these lyrics into songs, I would, of course, welcome the opportunity.
Much credit goes to graphic artist Dancinee Jennings creating another brilliant cover for me. Her cover went beyond the vision I had for the cover and truly captures the controversial and intriguing aspect of my poetry collection.
Please remember dear reader, these lyrical explorations can now finally be read as poetry as well. It feels great to finally reveal another side of my writing pursuits. This will also be the first of many of my lyrics collections as I have written more than 1,000 songs through the years. I can’t wait to share them all.