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The Poetics of American Song Lyrics$
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Charlotte Pence

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617031564

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617031564.001.0001

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Sweetness Follows: Michael Stipe, John Keats, And the Consolations of Time

Sweetness Follows: Michael Stipe, John Keats, And the Consolations of Time

(p.212) Sweetness Follows: Michael Stipe, John Keats, And the Consolations of Time
The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

Eric Reimer

University Press of Mississippi

Despite thirty years of writing and performing for R.E.M., Michael Stipe continues to have an obscure status as one of rock music’s most accomplished and poetic lyricists. His emphasis on the musicality of language was allegedly undermined, especially early in his career, by willful obscurantism. This chapter examines Stipe’s obfuscated lyrics through the lens of poetry, arguing that his songs are unknowingly influenced by Romantic poets such as John Keats. It highlights the Keatsian imprint in the songs of R.E.M.’s 1992 album Automatic for the People, in which Stipe realized a consistently striking balance between semantic content and auditory richness. The chapter cites the album’s concluding song, “Find the River,” which recalls the last of Keats’s great odes, “To Autumn.”

Keywords:   poetry, Michael Stipe, rock music, lyrics, songs, John Keats, Find the River, To Autumn

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