None of it Makes Sense

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Do all songs have to mean something? Sometimes a meaning springs from the sheer pleasure of simply putting words together on the page.

Paul Weller: Suburban 100

I came across the above quote, earlier this week, while doing some research for my radio show, Never Mind The Sonnets. Weller refers to the lyrics in his 1993 song, The Weaver. He states in the book, Suburban 100, that he wrote and used the lyrics for the way they looked on the page, not for any attached meaning. An abstract song, as it were.

A question I get asked from some readers of my work is what does the poem mean? On occasions, I have to shrug my shoulders and admit I am not sure. Like Weller, the words have come from various sources and put together, more for the way they sound than for any meaning.

Abstract Poetry

Dame Edith Sitwell was one of the first protagonists of Abstract Poetry. Her poetry collection, Facade, was an experiment in aural performance poetry. When she first performed the work, in 1922, it was met with a hostile reception. She recalls at the end of the performance having to, ‘hide behind the curtain. An old lady waited to beat me up with an umbrella.’

Rythm was a key necessity in many of Sitwell’s poems. In her autobiography she describes poetic rhythm as, ‘one of the principal translators between dream and reality.’ Much of her poetry is now perceived as unfit for today’s cultural climate, but she had a valid point on her views about poem soundings.

A Search for Meaning

Throughout childhood, I was hooked on the writing of Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss. I still recall nursery rhymes, read to me, being enjoyed on a wave of sound as opposed to meaning.

The search for meaning is innate and one of the brain’s primary survival functions. If our brains are searching for patterns and connections, then they are not looking to create mischief.

Weller, Sitwell, and Abstract Poetry have conspired to keep my brain busy this week. I’m still not sure whether they have made any coherent connections, but I thought I would put them out there to see if you can do any better.

Let me know if you do. You can listen to Weller’s, The Weaver, below. Have a good weekend.

13 thoughts on “None of it Makes Sense

  1. Such interesting thoughts about abstract poetry and meaning. I love Roald Dahl too. Since I’m reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to my 3-year-old, you’ve given me a lot to think about.

    1. Thank you, Wynne. I loved Dr. Seuss as a child and read his books to my daughter when she was younger. They are timeless and I think they have a song type quality when you read them. I hope your 3-year-old gets as much enjoyment. Have a good weekend.

  2. I admired Paul Weller from the first time I heard the Jam. Style Council was sometimes nice as well but never listened to his solo stuff. And I ever cared for the lyrics too much, since as a German i didn’t understand half of them anyway.

    1. I was lucky enough to see The Jam live on several occasions, Orca. When Weller left I had a strop and didn’t listen much to his Style Council, solo stuff. It is only in the past few years I have started to appreciate the work he did after The Jam, especially the lyrics.

  3. I’ve immersed myself deeply in the discord and rhyme podcast recently. Probably the one aspect I’m not crazy about is their focus on the meaning of the lyrics. I have an aural processing deficiency so I almost never know what a song is about. Or worse, I get the lyrics wrong and completely miss the point. Realized recently that I’ve been doing this with Fire in Cairo for decades (whisper my name and I yawn 🤣 ). The podcast I heard most recently was about Fear of Music. They went on and on about the meaning of each song. I was like who the eff cares. Ironically the episode on the Jam had a heavy focus on lyrics. I’m with Paul. How the lyrics sound is more important than what they mean.

    1. I have never heard that podcast, Jeff, so thanks for the heads up. I like to know the story behind writers and what they have written. Like you, I get a bit lost when people start to try and interpret the work itself. We all have our different interpretations of music, art, poetry. These attempts to unravel something just squeeze the life out of them. It is an interesting subject area and thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Never really pondered upon this before, Davy. Abstract writing is definitely more about the arrangement and the rhythm. I’ve noticed that many readers apply their own thoughts and experiences to writing that is quite clear in meaning deriving newer perceptions and conclusions. Even the writer can see fresher angles to their words. Seriously, the mind has a mind of its own. Haha! Lovely sharing. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Terveen. You are right in that our brains are different and interpret the same things in different ways. Even with non-abstract writing, I have offered a comment on something and completely missed the point. I think our differences and viewpoints are what makes writing so rewarding.

  5. I think that the old saying that the beauty is in the eye of the beholder applies here. Whether its art, poetry, music, novels, or something else, every one’s opinion of it will be subjective. I don’t feel that there should be a requirement to find a consensus on the meaning of a poem, etc. That is a very individual thing.

    1. I agree, Diana. The magic of a piece of music, art, writing, is how it can have different meanings for different people. In terms of poetry, sometime when I have written a poem, the meaning can change over time.

  6. Great post! I’m so attracted to poetry, songs, and stories that have a cool rhythm, often regardless of the meaning. I taught 8th grade literature – same show 7 times a day. By the last class I was so into the sound of the words that it completely entertained me (and hopefully my students.) Maya Angelou was always a favorite. I heard her speak once, and her words came out of her like a sultry blues song no matter what she was saying. 🙂 Alicia

    1. Thanks, Alicia. I am glad you enjoyed it. I love Maya Angelou’s writing but have never heard her voice. I will try and source something. You are right about the rhythm of things, sometimes it is good just to listen and let the flow carry us away.

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