Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lyric Poetry and the Rockstar Poet of the Middle Ages

The form for today is lyric poetry, especially its origins. Like most poetry, originally it could be set to music and often was. The Greeks had lyric poetry, but until it met courtly love, the form didn’t really get going. Once it did, however, lyric poetry exploded on scene, and a few hundred years later brought us the power ballads and heartbreak country.

The pioneer in lyric poetry in the Middle Ages was rockstar poet William IX of Aquitaine.,_Duke_of_Aquitaine#Poetic_career
William perhaps invented the form and idea of romantic poetry, so we have him and his successive troubadours to blame for our modern shallow, Hollywood version of love.
Granted, as a prolific womanizer he likely used his honeyed tongue (ooh double entendre :p) to get into the pants (under the skirts) of any woman that struck his fancy. However, he did leave quite the legacy to his granddaughter, Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of Richard the Lion-Hearted and John, called Lackland. See William’s complete works:
See? Poetry has been helping guys get laid for the last 900 years! :) As one of the first troubadours, hopefully it worked better for Willy than the wrong Steve (see yesterday’s blog). And if it didn’t, William was still one of the most powerful lords of his day. If his lyrics failed, he could always use the “Hey, did you know I own, like, most of what will someday be France?” to pick up girls in a bar.

Lyric poetry has less to do with form and more to do with content. The Middle Ages saw the advent of the age of idyllic courtly love, and even today lyric poems have less to do with telling a story than exploring the poet’s mind, perceptions, and feelings, dealing deeply with the author’s own point of view and feelings. Love alone isn’t the only topic for a lyric poem. Grief, loss, war, nostalgia, peace, nature, and other large ideas can compose the content of this type of poem. Sonnets, Petrarchan and Shakespearean; rhymed or unrhymed; sung to music or read; even rap lyrics can be called lyric poetry, or poetry with a beat. It’s basically what most of us think of when we hear the word “poetry.”