Although this is an article about writing poetry, I’m going to have to start by talking about one of my favourite metal bands – namely the one and only Cradle Of Filth [NSFW]– for quite a while. Trust me, there’s a good reason for this and I’m not just rambling about music just for the sake of it.
If you’ve never heard a Cradle Of Filth song before, I should point out that their music is something of an acquired taste. Because of Dani Filth’s extremely guttural vocal style, it can take a while to even work out exactly what he’s singing – so it can be useful to keep a copy of the lyrics nearby until you can understand his singing properly.
Also, be prepared for a shock occasionally. When I first discovered this band, I remember absolutely loving one of the catchier songs on their “Midian” album until I happened to actually read the lyrics for it and notice that it was basically an extremely disturbing song narrated from the gleeful perspective of an unrepentant serial killer.
In case you haven’t guessed already, one of the brilliant things about Cradle Of Filth is that virtually all of their songs are about some kind of dark, disturbing and/or debauched subject matter. In fact, a Cradle Of Filth album isn’t a Cradle Of Filth album unless it contains at least two orgies, a few old Anglo-Saxon words for genitalia, something vaguely vampiric and at least a few gruesome deaths.
But, there’s a lot more to Cradle Of Filth than just puerile shock value. No, the reason that I’m talking about them here is because they are one of the best sources of poetic inspiration and poetry teaching that I’ve ever found.
In fact, I’d argue that listening to their songs (or listening to well-written rap music, if heavy metal isn’t your thing) can be a great way to learn how to write better poetry.
Although Cradle Of Filth’s songs may be about some fairly shocking subject matter, they elevate this to the level of art by writing and singing about it in a way that would put most famous Victorian poets to shame. Yes, underneath the screeched vocals, there is actually a lot of fairly old-school poetry!
Seriously, the lyric booklets that come with their albums could easily double up as short poetry collections. If you don’t believe me, then here are a few lines from one of their songs about Elizabeth Báthory called ‘Desire In Violent Overture’: “An emanation of phantom madness/ The Countess beheld in shroud/ By girls bereft of future vows/ Soon to wed in white the frosted ground“.
But, how is any of this relevant to us as poets?
Well, when we’re writing poetry, it can be easy to forget that poetry was originally meant to be read aloud. As I’ve mentioned at least once before, one of the best ways to tell if your poem is any good or not is to read it aloud.
After all, the main reason why poets add things like rhymes, iambic pentameter, carefully-placed line breaks etc… to their poems is because they sound good.
As such, listening to a lot of well-written poetry that has been set to music can be a great way to learn how a poem should sound and to learn how to write poetry that sounds good.
Again, if heavy metal isn’t your favourite genre, then there are plenty of rap songs out there that will also teach you how to write good poetry. After all, rap music is basically just poetry set to music.
So, remember that it can help to listen to songs that have poetic lyrics when you’re learning how to write poetry (or if you just want to improve your own poetry).
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂