OK, so it’s technically National Poetry Day in the U.K., BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the musicians we love any day of the year. The art of songwriting has evolved throughout the years, and while you can argue that most of these musicians’ song are poems, some artists have dedicated their talents specifically to writing poetry, outside of music.
To celebrate this day, here are some of our favorite musicians who are also published poets, along with accomplished songwriters.
Early in his career, Lennon wrote two book of poems, illustrations and short stories titled, “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard In The Works.” The books used free association, improvisation, puns, word play and other methods which were unique to his personality and songwriting style.
Smith published her first poems in 1972, and since then, has published a number of collections of poetry, including Babel, The Coral Sea, and Patti Smith Complete: Lyrics, Reflections & Notes for the Future. Beyond her music, she is also known for her memoir, Just Kids, based on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, which was an award-winning bestseller in 2010.
Cohen first published Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1956, which would be the first of his many published poetry collections throughout his life. Other titles include Stranger Music, The Flame and Book of Longing.
Welch, the front woman of Florence and the Machines, released her first poetry book just this past summer, Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry, which includes illustrations, lyrics and original poetry. She said of why she decided to publish her poetry, “Poetry can reveal part of yourself that you didn’t know.”
Dylan began his career in poetry in 1966 when he wrote Tarantula, a collection of experimental prose poetry. Some argue that Dylan’s entire song catalog is considered poetry, and his genius earned him the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, where they stated the reason: “For having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Tupac Shakur is known for his influence in the world of rap, and his genius with words. Shakur grew up at Baltimore School of the Arts, where he studies jazz, poetry, acting and ballet. The book, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, was a collection of poems written by Shakur between 1989 and 1991, starting when he was 17 years old.
Mitchell released her first comprehensive collection of lyrics and poems in 1997, aptly titled, Joni Mitchell: The Complete Poems and Lyrics.
Just this past year, a collection of unpublished Lou Reed poems was released, titled, Do Angels Need Haircuts? The book was accompanied by a 1971 recording of the Velvet Underground singer reciting some of his writings St. Mark’s Church in New York City.
After becoming a young singer-songwriter sensation (with her debut album, Pieces of You, selling over 12 million copies), Jewel took her writing talents to release her first poetry book in 1998, A Night Without Armor. The collection quickly became a New York Times bestseller.