Greatest Lyricists/Musicians-as-Poets!

  1. Joanna Newsom.

    Only Skin.
  2. "Last week our picture window produced a half-word
  3. heavy and hollow, hit by a brown bird.
  4. We stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake
  5. and pant and labour over every intake.
  6. //
  7. I said a sort of prayer for some sort of rare grace
  8. then thought I ought to take her to a higher place,
  9. said: 'dog nor vulture nor cat shall toy with you
  10. and though you die, bird, you will have a fine view'
  11. //
  12. then in my hot hand
  13. she slumped her sick weight
  14. we tramped through the poison oak
  15. heartbroke and inchoate.
  16. //
  17. The dogs were snapping
  18. so you cuffed their collars
  19. while I climbed the tree-house
  20. then how I hollered!
  21. cause she'd lain, as still as a stone, in my palm, for a lifetime or two
  22. //
  23. then, saw the treetops, cocked her head and up and flew
  24. (while, back in the world that moves, often
  25. according to the hoarding of these clues
  26. dogs still run roughly around
  27. little tufts of finch-down).
  28. //
  29. The cities we passed were a flickering wasteland
  30. but his hand in my hand made them hale and harmless
  31. while down in the lowlands the crops are all coming;
  32. we have everything.
  33. Life is thundering blissful towards death
  34. in a stampede of his fumbling green gentleness."
  35. Sawdust & Diamonds.
  36. "I wanted to say: why the long face?
  37. sparrow, perch and play songs of long face!
  38. burro, buck and bray songs of long face!
  39. sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
  40. just to lift your long face!
  41. //
  42. and though it may be madness, I will take to the grave
  43. your precious longface!
  44. and though our bones they may break, and our souls separate
  45. - why the long face?
  46. and though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil
  47. - why the long face?
  48. //...//
  49. Though my wrists and my waist seemed so easy to break,
  50. still, my dear, I would have walked you to the edge of the water
  51. and they will recognise all the lines of your face
  52. in the face of the daughter of the daughter of my daughter.
  53. //
  54. Darling, we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
  55. appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes
  56. but if it's all just the same, then will you say my name:
  57. say my name in the morning, so I know when the wave breaks?"
  58. Clam Crab Cockle Cowrie.
  59. "Your skin is something that I stir into my tea"
  60. Does Not Suffice.
  61. "I will pack all my pretty dresses,
  62. I will box up my high-heeled shoes.
  63. A sparkling ring for every finger,
  64. I'll put away and hide from view.
  65. //
  66. Coats of boucle, jacquard and cashmere,
  67. Cartouche and tweed, all silver-shot,
  68. And everything that could remind you
  69. Of how easy I was not.
  70. //
  71. I'll tuck away my gilded buttons.
  72. I'll bind my silks in shapeless bales.
  73. Wrap it all up in reams o' tissue
  74. And then I'll kiss you sweet farewell.
  75. //...//
  76. It does not suffice for you to say I am a sweet girl,
  77. Or to say you hate to see me sad because of you.
  78. It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other
  79. As those who love each other do.
  80. //
  81. I picture you rising up in the morning
  82. Stretching out on your boundless bed
  83. Beating a clear path to the shower,
  84. Scouring yourself red.
  85. //
  86. The tap of hangers swaying in the closet,
  87. Unburdened hooks and empty drawers,
  88. And everywhere I tried to love you
  89. Is yours again and only yours."
  90. Bob Dylan.

    Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.
  91. "With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
  92. And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
  93. And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
  94. Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?
  95. With your pockets well protected at last,
  96. And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass,
  97. And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass,
  98. Who among them do they think could carry you?
  99. Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
  100. Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
  101. My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
  102. Should I leave them by your gate,
  103. Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait? "
  104. Desolation Row.
  105. "They're selling postcards of the hanging
  106. They're painting the passports brown
  107. The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
  108. The circus is in town
  109. Here comes the blind commissioner
  110. They've got him in a trance
  111. One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
  112. The other is in his pants
  113. And the riot squad they're restless
  114. They need somewhere to go
  115. As Lady and I look out tonight
  116. From Desolation Row
  117. //...//
  118. Yes, I received your letter yesterday
  119. About the time the door knob broke
  120. When you asked how I was doing
  121. Was that some kind of joke?
  122. All these people that you mention
  123. Yes, I know them, they're quite lame
  124. I had to rearrange their faces
  125. And give them all another name
  126. Right now I can't read too good
  127. Don't send me no more letters no
  128. Not unless you mail them
  129. From Desolation Row."
  130. 4th Time Around.
  131. "When she said,
  132. "Don't waste your words, they're just lies,"
  133. I cried she was deaf.
  134. And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes,
  135. Then said, "What else you got left?"
  136. It was then that I got up to leave
  137. But she said, "Don't forget,
  138. Everybody must give something back
  139. For something they get."
  140. //
  141. I stood there and hummed,
  142. I tapped on her drum and asked her how come.
  143. And she buttoned her boot,
  144. And straightened her suit,
  145. Then she said, "Don't get cute."
  146. So I forced my hands in my pockets
  147. And felt with my thumbs,
  148. And gallantly handed her
  149. My very last piece of gum.
  150. //
  151. She threw me outside,
  152. I stood in the dirt where ev'ryone walked.
  153. And after finding I'd
  154. Forgotten my shirt,
  155. I went back and knocked.
  156. I waited in the hallway, she went to get it,
  157. And I tried to make sense
  158. Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
  159. That leaned up against . . ."
  160. Leonard Cohen.

    The Stranger Song.
  161. "It's true that all the men you knew
  162. were dealers who said they were through
  163. with dealing every time you gave them shelter.
  164. I know that kind of man, it's hard to hold the hand of anyone
  165. who is reaching for the sky just to surrender."
  166. Susanne.
  167. "And Jesus was a sailor
  168. When he walked upon the water
  169. And he spent a long time watching
  170. From his lonely wooden tower
  171. And when he knew for certain
  172. Only drowning men could see him
  173. He said "All men will be sailors then
  174. Until the sea shall free them"
  175. But he himself was broken
  176. Long before the sky would open
  177. Forsaken, almost human
  178. He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.
  179. And you want to travel with him
  180. And you want to travel blind
  181. And you think maybe you'll trust him
  182. For he's touched your perfect body
  183. with his mind. "
  184. Bruce Springsteen.

    Thunder Road.
  185. "The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways,
  186. Like a vision she dances across the porch
  187. As the radio plays.
  188. Roy Orbison singing for the lonely,
  189. Hey that's me and I want you only,
  190. Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again.
  191. Don't run back inside, darling you know just what I'm here for--
  192. So you're scared and you're thinking
  193. That maybe we ain't that young anymore.
  194. Show a little faith, there's magic in the night;
  195. You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
  196. And that's alright with me."
  197. Syd Barrett.

    Dark Globe.
  198. "Oh where are you now, pussywillow that smiled on this leaf
  199. When I was alone, you promised the stone from your heart
  200. //
  201. My head kissed the ground
  202. I was half the way down
  203. Treading the sand
  204. Please, please lift a hand
  205. I'm only a person
  206. Whose armbands beat
  207. On his hands hang tall
  208. //
  209. Won't you miss me? Wouldn't you miss me at all?
  210. //
  211. The poppy birds way
  212. Swing twigs coffee brands around
  213. Brandish her wand with a feathery tongue
  214. //
  215. My head kissed the ground
  216. I was half the way down
  217. Treading the sand
  218. Please, please, please lift a hand
  219. I'm only a person with eskimo chain
  220. I tattooed my brain all the way
  221. //
  222. Won't you miss me? Wouldn't you miss me at all? "
  223. Lisa Germano.

    ... A Psychopath.
  224. "A baseball bat,
  225. A baseball bat beside my bed...
  226. I'll wait around and wait around
  227. And wait--
  228. //
  229. I hear a noise, I hear a noise.
  230. Well, I hear something...
  231. I am alone, you win again,
  232. I'm paralyzed...
  233. //
  234. I drift away, I'll drift away.
  235. Am I asleep yet?
  236. //
  237. I hear a scream, I see me scream,
  238. Is it from memory?
  239. Am I awake, am I alone,
  240. When it is sunrise?
  241. //
  242. A baseball bat, a thing of mace--
  243. That thing of mace, the thing of mace,
  244. Where did I leave it?
  245. //
  246. A psychopath, a psychopath
  247. He says he loves me
  248. //
  249. And I'm alone, and I am cold and paralyzed.
  250. I can't move ."
  251. Nick Cave.

    The Ship Song.
  252. "Come loose your dogs upon me
  253. and let your hair hang down;
  254. you are a little mystery to me,
  255. every time you come around.
  256. //
  257. We talk about it all night long,
  258. we define our moral ground,
  259. but when I crawl into your arms
  260. everything comes tumbling down.
  261. //
  262. Come sail your ships around me
  263. and burn your bridges down;
  264. we make a little history, baby,
  265. every time you come around.
  266. //
  267. Your face has fallen sad now
  268. for you know the time is nigh
  269. when I must remove your wings
  270. and you, you must try to fly."
  271. David Thomas (Pere Ubu).

    Sentimental Journey.
  272. "Window
  273. my size
  274. Outside
  275. monoxide
  276. Inside
  277. paradise
  278. Curtain
  279. no breeze
  280. //
  281. Motion
  282. attraction
  283. Here she comes
  284. girl
  285. She says
  286. Why don't you just go home?
  287. I don't know
  288. I guess I'll go home"
  289. Paul Westerberg (the Replacements).

    Answering Machine.
  290. "Try to free a slave of ignorance
  291. Try and teach a whore about romance
  292. //
  293. How do you say I miss you to
  294. An answering machine?
  295. How do you say good night to
  296. An answering machine?
  297. How do you say I'm lonely to
  298. An answering machine?
  299. The message is very plain
  300. Oh, I hate your answering machine
  301. I hate your answering machine
  302. I hate your answering machine...
  303. //
  304. 2-1-2, 3-1-3..."
  305. Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel).

    Holland, 1945.
  306. "The only girl I've ever loved
  307. Was born with roses in her eyes
  308. But then they buried her alive
  309. One evening, 1945
  310. With just her sister at her side
  311. And only weeks before the guns
  312. All came and rained on everyone
  313. Now she's a little boy in Spain
  314. Playing pianos filled with flames
  315. On empty rings around the sun
  316. All sing to say my dream has come.
  317. //
  318. But now we must pick up every piece
  319. Of the life we used to love
  320. Just to keep ourselves
  321. At least enough to carry on!
  322. //...//
  323. And here's where your mother sleeps
  324. And here is the room where your brothers were born
  325. Indentions in the sheets
  326. Where their bodies once moved but don't move anymore
  327. And it's so sad to see the world agree
  328. That they'd rather see their faces fill with flies
  329. All when I'd want to keep white roses in their eyes."
  330. Lou Reed (Velvet Underground).

  331. "I don't know just where I'm going
  332. But I'm gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
  333. 'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
  334. When I put a spike into my vein
  335. And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same
  336. When I'm rushing on my run
  337. And I feel just like Jesus' son
  338. And I guess that I just don't know
  339. And I guess that I just don't know...
  340. //...//
  341. Heroin, be the death of me.
  342. Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life,
  343. Because a main up to my vein
  344. Leads to a center in my head
  345. And then I'm better off and dead
  346. Because when the smack begins to flow
  347. I really don't care anymore
  348. About all the Jim-Jim's in this town
  349. And all the politicians makin' crazy sounds
  350. And everybody puttin' everybody else down
  351. And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds!"
  352. Ian Curtis (Joy Division).

    Twenty Four Hours.
  353. "So this is permanence, love's shattered pride,
  354. What once was innocence, turned on its side.
  355. Grey cloud hangs over me, marks every move
  356. Deep in the memory of what once was love.
  357. //
  358. Oh, how I realised how I wanted time
  359. Put into perspective, tried so hard to find.
  360. Just for one moment I thought I'd found my way
  361. Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away.
  362. //
  363. Excessive flashpoints, beyond all reach.
  364. Solitary demands for all I'd like to keep.
  365. Let's take a ride out, see what we can find,
  366. A valueless collection of hopes and past desires.
  367. //
  368. I never realised the lengths I'd have to go;
  369. All the darkest corners of a sense I didn't know.
  370. Just for one moment I heard somebody call,
  371. Looked beyond the day in hand, there's nothing there at all
  372. //
  373. Now that I've realised how it's all gone wrong
  374. Got to find some therapy, this treatment takes too long.
  375. Deep in the heart of where sympathy held sway
  376. Got to find my destiny before it gets too late. "
  377. Daniel Johnston.

    Devil Town.
  378. “i was livin' in a devil town
  379. didn't know it was a devil town
  380. oh lord it really brings me down
  381. about the devil town
  382. and all my friends were vampires
  383. didn't know they were vampires
  384. turns out i was a vampire myself
  385. in the devil town
  386. i was livin' in a devil town
  387. didn't know it was a devil town
  388. oh lord it really brings me down
  389. about the devil town”
  390. Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones).

    Let It Loose.
  391. ”Who's that woman on your arm
  392. all dressed up to do you harm?
  393. And I'm hip to what she'll do,
  394. give her just about a month or two.
  395. Bit off more than I can chew
  396. and I knew what it was leading to.
  397. Some things, well, I can't refuse:
  398. One of them, the bedroom blues.”
  399. Cole Porter.

    Night And Day.
  400. "Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
  401. When the jungle shadows fall,
  402. Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock
  403. As it stands against the wall,
  404. Like the drip drip drip of the raindrops
  405. When the summer shower is through,
  406. So a voice within me keeps repeating
  407. You, you, you:
  408. //
  409. Night and day, you are the one--
  410. Only you, beneath the moon or under the sun;
  411. Whether near to me, or far,
  412. It's no matter darling where you are:
  413. I think of you.
  414. Day and night, night and day, why is it so
  415. //
  416. That this longing for you follows wherever I go?
  417. In the roaring traffic's boom,
  418. In the silence of my lonely room
  419. I think of you
  420. Day and night...
  421. //
  422. Night and day, under the hide of me
  423. There's an ,oh, such a hungry yearning burning inside of me,
  424. And this torment won't be through
  425. Until you let me spend my life making love to you
  426. Day and night, night and day."
  427. Laura Nyro.

    Poverty Train.
  428. "You can see the walls roar,
  429. see your brains on the floor,
  430. become God,
  431. become crippled,
  432. become funky
  433. and split.
  434. Why was I born?
  435. //
  436. I just saw the Devil
  437. and he's smilin' at me!
  438. I heard my bones cry
  439. 'Devil, why's it got to be?'
  440. Devil played with my brother
  441. Devil drove my mother
  442. Now the tears in the gutter
  443. are floodin the sea.
  444. Why was I born?"
  445. Tom Verlaine (Television).

    Marquee Moon.
  446. "I remember-- how the darkness doubled
  447. I recall-- lightning struck itself.
  448. I was listening, listening to the rain,
  449. I was hearing, hearing something else.
  450. //
  451. Life in the hive puckered up my night,
  452. the kiss of death, the embrace of life.
  453. There I stand neath the Marquee Moon
  454. Just waiting...
  455. //
  456. I spoke to a man down at the tracks.
  457. I asked him how he don't go mad.
  458. He said "Look here junior, don't you be so happy.
  459. And for Heaven's sake, don't you be so sad."
  460. //
  461. [chorus...]
  462. Hesitating...
  463. //
  464. Well a Cadillac pulled out of the graveyard.
  465. Pulled up to me and they said get in.
  466. Then the Cadillac, it puttered back into the graveyard.
  467. And me, I got out again.
  468. //
  469. [chorus...]
  470. I ain't waiting!"
  471. Neil Halstead (Slowdive/Mojave 3).

    In Love With A View.
  472. "I had a plan
  473. that was built on thinking to long
  474. Canadian winters
  475. at home with your sisters
  476. the romance was hard to ignore
  477. you were beautiful
  478. I was happy to fall
  479. so happy to fall
  480. //
  481. I remember you searching
  482. I thought you were searching
  483. that's how I picked up the phone
  484. happy to hear you remembered the view
  485. so glad to assume it was fate
  486. I thought at the time it was clear
  487. I thought at the time it was clear
  488. //
  489. So I stood at the station
  490. with a plan and a pocket of poems
  491. heroically tragic
  492. bearded and blind with obsession
  493. I'm a car without hope
  494. too close to the ditch to go far
  495. I showed you my field
  496. I said this is my field
  497. but you weren't impressed
  498. //
  499. You said why are we here
  500. your motives aren't clear
  501. in this room with a view
  502. and so much of you
  503. is so far from here
  504. it's so far from here
  505. //
  506. Oh my heart
  507. it just fell apart
  508. by the sound of your voice
  509. and I wished I could show you
  510. the same view
  511. of you by the window and me
  512. feeling fine
  513. And me just feeling fine"
  514. Van Dyke Parks.

    Surf's Up (with Brian Wilson).
  515. "A diamond necklace played the pawn.
  516. Hand in hand, some drummed along
  517. to a handsome man and baton.
  518. A blind class aristocracy.
  519. Back through the opera glass you see
  520. the pit and the pendulum drawn.
  521. Columnated ruins domino!
  522. //
  523. Are you sleeping?
  524. //
  525. Hung velvet over taking me.
  526. Dim chandelier awaken me
  527. to a song dissolved in the dawn.
  528. The music hall - A costly bow.
  529. The music, all is lost for now,
  530. to a muted trumpeter swan.
  531. Columnated ruins domino!
  532. //
  533. Canvas the town and brush the back-drop.
  534. Are you sleeping? Brother John?
  535. //
  536. Dove nested towers -
  537. the hour was strike the street, quicksilver moon.
  538. Carriage across the fog-two-step to lamplight cellar tune.
  539. The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne.
  540. //
  541. The glass was raised, the fire rose,
  542. The fullness of the wine,
  543. A dim last toasting.
  544. While at Port, adieu or die.
  545. A choke of grief, heart-hardened, I,
  546. beyond belief, a broken man too tough to cry.
  547. //
  548. Surf's Up! Aboard a tidal wave.
  549. Come about hard and join the young
  550. and often spring you gave.
  551. //
  552. I heard the word. Wonderful thing! A children's song.
  553. A children's song - have you listened as they play?
  554. Their song is love and the children know the way. "
  555. Richard Hell (& The Voidoids).

    Blank Generation.
  556. ”I was sayin let me out of here before I was
  557. even born--it's such a gamble when you get a face
  558. It's fascinatin to observe what the mirror does
  559. but when I dine it's for the wall that I set a place.
  560. //
  561. I belong to the blank generation and
  562. I can take it or leave it each time
  563. I belong to the ______ generation but
  564. I can take it or leave it each time”
  565. Sufjan Stevens.

    Flint (For The Underpaid and Unemployed).
  566. ”Since the first of June,
  567. lost my job and lost my room.
  568. I pretend to try,
  569. even if I tried alone
  570. //
  571. I forgot the part,
  572. use my hands to use my heart.
  573. Even if I died alone...”
  574. Stephen Sondheim.

    No One Is Alone (from Into The Woods).
  575. "No one here to guide you,
  576. Now you're on your own.
  577. Only me beside you.
  578. Still you're not alone.
  579. No one is alone, truly.
  580. No one is alone.
  581. Sometimes people leave you
  582. Halfway through the wood.
  583. Others may deceive you.
  584. You decide what's good.
  585. You decide alone,
  586. But no one is alone.
  587. //...//
  588. Witches can be right,
  589. Giants can be good,
  590. You decide what's right,
  591. You decide what's good.
  592. Just remember
  593. Someone is on your side
  594. Someone else is not
  595. While you're seeing your side
  596. Maybe you forgot;
  597. They are not alone.
  598. No one is alone. "
  599. Colin Meloy (the Decemberists).

    The Hazards Of Love.
  600. This whole set of lyrics is good enough to bring Henry Purcell back from the dead to make music for it better than this band ever could.
  601. Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys).

    Holiday In Cambodia.
  602. "So you been to schools for a year or two
  603. And you know you've seen it all
  604. In daddy's car, thinking you'll go far.
  605. Back east your type don't crawl.
  606. //
  607. Play ethnic jazz
  608. To parade your snazz
  609. On your five grand stereo,
  610. Bragging that you know
  611. How the niggers feel cold
  612. And the slum's got so much soul!
  613. //
  614. It's time to taste what you most fear.
  615. Right Guard will not help you here.
  616. Brace yourself, my dear...
  617. //
  618. It's a holiday in Cambodia,
  619. It's tough, kid, but it's life!
  620. It's a holiday in Cambodia,
  621. Don't forget to pack a wife!
  622. //...//
  623. And it's a holiday in Cambodia
  624. Where you'll do what you're told!
  625. A holiday in Cambodia
  626. Where the slum's got so much soul!"
  627. Morrissey (the Smiths).

  628. “Sing to me,
  629. I don't want to wake up
  630. On my own any more.
  631. Don't feel bad for me,
  632. I want you to know
  633. deep in the cell of my heart,
  634. I really want to go.
  635. There is another world,
  636. there is a better world.
  637. Well, there must be...
  638. Bye, bye.”
  639. Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices).

    I Am A Scientist.
  640. “i am a scientist - i seek to understand me
  641. all of my impurities and evils yet unknown
  642. i am a journalist - i write to you to show you
  643. i am an incurable
  644. and nothing else behaves like me
  645. //
  646. and i know what's right
  647. but i'm losing sight
  648. of the clues for which i search and choose
  649. to abuse
  650. to just unlock my mind
  651. yeah, and just unlock my mind
  652. //
  653. i am a pharmacist
  654. prescriptions i will fill you
  655. potions, pills and medicines
  656. to ease your painful lives
  657. i am a lost soul
  658. i shoot myself with rock & roll
  659. the hole i dig is bottomless
  660. but nothing else can set me free”
  661. Avey Tare (Animal Collective).

    Spirit They've Vanished.
  662. “As the childhood ends
  663. Turn it fast
  664. As one mild day steals
  665. Someone's soul
  666. Into 20 years
  667. In spirit they've vanished
  668. And I'll show you why
  669. They'll make you take elderly paths by this time
  670. If we would just dump it
  671. In the sea and fly
  672. It's hard to just kiss our
  673. Child games goodbye”
  674. Dorian Cox (the Long Blondes).

    You Could Have Both.
  675. "I feel like C.C. Baxter in Wilder's Apartment,
  676. That particular arrangement just came out of the blue
  677. And who was it who sang 'I know that you love one
  678. So why can't you love two?'?
  679. I was in full-time education when I got scared of the future
  680. And I've only got a job so I don't disappoint my mother.
  681. It's like I've painted myself into a social corner;
  682. Well, that's what happens when you listen to
  683. Saint Scott Walker
  684. On headphones
  685. On the bus.
  686. What about us? What about us?
  687. My friends come round and they ask me 'What about us?'
  688. You know that I, I don't kid myself about happy endings,
  689. I'm too old for all that now,
  690. But you don't have to worry that much about the future
  691. And it's not as if you ever did before
  692. Because you'll always have everything just as you want it
  693. And there'll always be a phone to ring at three in the morning
  694. And you'll always have someone who'll drive you home
  695. Yes, you'll always have someone, someone to drive you home.
  696. Someone to drive you home.
  697. //...//
  698. Just when you're ready to take on the world
  699. Some other girl had to get there first
  700. And it's obvious that you're a man that's after her own heart
  701. But you know where I am
  702. And you know what I want
  703. And I know I'll never have you completely alone
  704. So I'm trying to draw up a contingency plan
  705. And it's obvious that you're a man that's after her own heart
  706. But you know where I am
  707. And you know that you could have both!"
Author Comments: 


Other contenders in no order at all:
Gil Scott-Heron
Maynard Keenan (Tool)
Matt Berninger (The National)
Karin Andersson-Dreijer (The Knife, Fever Ray)
Jim Steinman
Andrew Eldritch (Sisters Of Mercy)
Loreena McKennit
Eleanor Friedburger (Fiery Furnaces)
Randy Newman
Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters)
Tom Waits
Cedric Bixler-Zavala (The Mars Volta)
Mary Margaret O'Hara
Thom Yorke (Radiohead)
David Bowie
Stephen Malkmus (Pavement)
Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls)
John Lennon (Beatles)
George Harrison (Beatles)
Saul Williams
Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane)
Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane)
Frank Zappa
Mark Stewart (The Pop Group)
Robert Wyatt
Frank Black (Pixies)
Paul Simon
Van Morrisson
Chuck D (Public Enemy)
Captain Beefheart
James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem)
Tim Buckley
John Darnielle (Mountain Goats)
Will Oldham
David Byrne (Talking Heads)
Alan Sparhawk/Mimi Parker (Low)
Paul Haines
Joni Mitchell
Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu)
Liz Phair
Gareth Campesino (Los Campesinos!)
Neil Young
Sinéad O'Connor
Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian)
Nick Drake
Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music)
Win Butler (Arcade Fire)
Alanis Morissette
Robbie Robertson (The Band)
Scott Walker
Beth Gibbon (Portishead)
Carole King
Brian McMahan (Slint)
Patti Smith
Sage Francis
Ray Davies (Kinks)
Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields)
Panda Bear (Animal Collective)

Interesting list.
I'd consider adding Brian Eno to the list of lyricists, down there.

The reason Eno isn't on there is because I haven't given a good listen to a large portion of his work so I can't really say anything one way or another about him. But I've been meaning to listen to his stuff for a damn long time and once I do, he'll probably show up on here.
Thanks for the suggestion and glad you like the list!

No problem.
I was glad to see Hell up there...massively underrated lyricist.

The Voidoids also feature some of Robert Quine's finest guitarwork!

Hell and Jello Biafra were probably the smartest punk singers.

I really gotta disagree with this list on principle. Only because lyrics are (essentially) meaningless without the context of the music. When you read them as poetry, they sound merely like bad poetry. The opening Newsom song is a shining example.

"Last week our picture window produced a half-word
heavy and hollow, hit by a brown bird.
We stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake
and pant and labour over every intake.
I said a sort of prayer for some sort of rare grace
then thought I ought to take her to a higher place,
said: 'dog nor vulture nor cat shall toy with you
and though you die, bird, you will have a fine view'


Just look at the childish rhyming scheme, which is not charming but just sort of amateurish. word/bird rattlesnake/intake (! wtf!) grace/place you/view, i mean really quite bad.

We stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake/and pant and labour over every intake

makes no sense and is just arbitrary rhymes that sound cute. Beefheart busts her hymen open, but even his stuff is not great poetry. I have no problem that you dig this stuff, it's better than most lyrics that get written. I object to the objective posturing that goes on without really examining the lyrics themselves and the sort of massive listing of a large amount of artists for no apparent reason, other than to say "trust me, I know what I'm talking about".

The worst is Lisa Germano who is a terrible poet and the lines you quoted only sound haunting set against the music. Otherwise it sounds like something my little sister scribbled in a rare burst of creativity. Or maybe the Nick Cave one is worse, composed entirely of cliches. Again, this works in songwriting, but it is terrible poetry.

So complex rhyme schemes are the yardstick by which poetry must be judged? Shit, someone should have clued in Robert Frost.

In typical form, you're pretending to engage the topic, but it's clear it's just a pretext for your incoherent ramblings. He's clearly not judging the lyrics in comparison to Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson and Khayyam; the list is obviously derived from the medium of music. It's all about songwriting, as can be easily gleaned from the list title, I'm not sure how you missed that part.

I love how you have the nerve to accuse anyone of "objective posturing", you must be irony impaired.

I do agree that lyrics, even the greatest lyrics, have little meaning to me without the music and the particular way a singer sings the words. Lisa Germano could sing the alphabet and i would enjoy it; and, there is a difference between the Down Colorful Hill version of "Down Colorful Hill" and the live version on Little Drummer Boy. But, I can read lyrics that are "poetry", which is a term that I have yet to understand to have a definitive meaning (Gertrude Stein, Wordsworth's "Michael", etc.).

I think "Heroin" is just as good as any other poem written in that time, as well as all of the songs off of Songs of Leonard Cohen, and "Desolation Row" (among others by Dylan).

What is good poetry? When does good poetry become good? What is an example of bad poetry by a good poet?

I can only think of two artists right now who were published poets before they became "lyricists"--Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith--which songs that were later recorded came from their published poetry. Dylan has since been anthologized in poetry books, though that is largely due to his pop culture status, as is with most poets who get more coverage in those same anthologies. I think Beefheart has had poetry books released, if not there is one album of just his words, but it made up of previously recorded material.

I guess what I want to know is what I asked above, which is, when do a collection of words become poetry? Is it like a chair? That is, a chair only becomes a chair when you sit down on it, or is it anything that resembles other things that you have sat on before in shape and material?

I know there are famous definitions given by famous poets on what constitutes "poetry" versus prose, or just a random collection of words. I would like to know if you have an answer. I am not just poking the chimp in the cage waiting for the feces. I know that I used to think I could write poetry that was good and bad--those days are either gone or are buried--and be able to at least tell the difference between poetry I liked vs. poetry I did not like (essentially good vs. bad poetry). But, lately I have been reading my anthologies again, and some of the greats are boring, or I think have almost no value at all, and I am talking about poets like Yeats, Stein, Dickinson, and others that I used to think were not good but GREAT.

This is a shameless plug, but is this poetry? I will be putting up more stuff that I wrote before if i feel it is decent enough, or if I think it is as finished as I can make it. Some of the stuff will be more "conventional" and other stuff much more "experimental", though not new in poetic theory, that i know of. Also, some songs that I plan to get recorded at least as demos.

I don't think I can answer this?
It always felt like these "WHAT IS POETRY, REALLY?" discussions just go in circles.

For the purposes of this list I can basically just say that lineation is the definition enough.