Music & Lyrics: Not the Hugh Grant & Drew Barrymore Version

What does music exactly do for the writing process? The relationship between music and poetry is anomalous and transforms into something alluring for the writer and the reader. Almost every writer knows if they work well with music; some try to switch up the rhythm of the writing practice by incorporating music or eliminating it from their process. How does it amplify the shifts and the beat of the language? Is the narrative dissimilar when you listen compared to when you don’t?

Writers like Hanif Abdurraqib embody the true essence of how music interacts with poetry and performance. In Hanif’s poem, “It’s Not Like Nikola Tesla Knew All of Those People Were Going to Die,” you can feel the rhythm that he put into: "Everyone wants to write about god / but no one wants to imagine their god / as the finger trembling inside a grenade / pin’s ring or the red vine of blood coughed into a child’s palm/ while they cradle the head of a dying parent. In his new book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, Hanif dives deep into the musical group, A Tribe Called Quest, that transformed rap in the early 90’s. A book review of Hanif’s new work that challenges hip hop history can be found here. Hanif has become the new age icon for the triple edge sword of the musician, poet, and critic.

Other genres like metal might be hard to see on the page (though I’d argue that white space has a very metal undertone to it), but the lyrics that come from Alternative or R&B can be easily interpreted in the eye of the writer. Writing a poem with the intention of the lyrics you're listening to can bring out something else in the poem, nevertheless, different kinds of music engage writers in various ways. Despite the genre you’re tied to, the strange but intimate relationship between music and the written word is engaging.

I made this playlist of the music we like to write to. You can listen to this playlist while your folding your laundry or when you sit down to write. I’ve tried it, and it works for both.


Xoxo- Sara (Assistant Web Editor)

Washington Square