Original Research

Similarities and dissimilarities between poems and song lyrics

Bernardus J. Odendaal
Literator | Vol 34, No 2 | a422 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v34i2.422 | © 2013 Bernardus J. Odendaal | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2013 | Published: 20 November 2013

About the author(s)

Bernardus J. Odendaal, School of Languages, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


Developments around the Afrikaans ‘songs for listening’ in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the term gained prominence in the art of song, initiated a ‘rapprochement’ between the Afrikaans poetry and song systems which put the differentiating characteristics of poems and song lyrics, previously considered to be clearly distinguishable, in question. The consequent need for reflection on the existence, or not, of fundamental differences between the two text types inspired the research for this article (a critical study of relevant local and international sources; an application of findings to examples of Afrikaans songs and poetry). Firstly, emphasis is placed on the shared history and the continued relationship between the two genres. The difference in intended mediums of presentation – oral performance versus print edition – is identified as the most fundamental distinction between song texts and poetry. The prominent utilisation of visual-figurative prosodic elements in poetry, that is, next to the rythmic-sonic elements which it has in common with song texts, was subsequently found to be a decisive distinction, particularly since the era of high modernism with its treasure of free verse. This entails a development corresponding to what mediologist Debray described as a cultural shift from the logospheric to the graphospheric era. Finally, mention is made of how the dynamic growth of the electronic media in the current videospheric era yielded new problematical distinctions between lyrics and poetry. The scope of this article, however, does not allow further investigation regarding the latter.


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