Friday, August 26, 2011

The Poetry of Lyrics: An interview with Mike Cooley

Today, we have something a bit different: an interview with Mike Cooley about his poetry/lyrics collection End Of The World Love Songs.

1) Tell us a little about your collection.

My poetry collection is called End Of The World Love Songs. The poems themselves were all originally songs I wrote and recorded for a variety of one-man-bands from 2004 to 2010. I’ve written about 300 songs over that time period, and the book contains 93 of the most poetic. The title comes from the themes I explore, which cover a lot of different areas but often focus on love and loss.

2) While lyrics are poetry, they are poetry meant to be paired with music. Are you worried that the lyrics will lose any of their impact without the music? I noticed you've made much of the music that goes with the lyrics available.

Great question! Yes, I was very worried about that. For one thing, the syntax and punctuation of the original lyrics was set up to allow me to sing the songs properly (often with hyphenated words for phrasing and the like). And since I remember the songs, I can kind of hear the music as I read the words. I went through and tried to change the punctuation to make the words flow better for readers that have never heard the music (which was a challenge). I also eliminated some of the repetition that occurs in the actual songs when I transcribed them into poetry.

I came up with the idea to post the music for all the poems by accident. But since I had all the music already recorded I figured it would be a good bonus for people reading the book to be able to listen to the song behind any poem that they were particularly fond of. However, I did run into a problem finding all of those songs, so I’m not done posting all 93 yet. Soon I hope to have all of them posted on my blog. Once all of them are up I plan to also post a ZIP file that contains the entire soundtrack (in order of appearance in the book).

3) Is there a general thematic thread that links the collection?

In a way, the theme that links the collection is my life. I was writing a couple of songs a week during those years, and they were often reflective of my emotions at the time. Those were challenging years for me, so many of the songs have a dark edge to them. And since the songs come from different bands, they have different levels of intensity. The poems that came from Divergent Future (my first band) for instance are different than the ones from Gotham Steel (my Metal Band).

Within the collection some of the poems comprise an album, and the album would often have a story arc or theme. The most obvious example of that is my album Robots of Dawn. That album has a complete story arc. I didn’t choose to put the poems in the book in the order that they appear on albums, but for that album, the poems would be: Robots of Dawn, If You Want To Live, Machine Dreams, Dust, New Skin, She Stands At The Precipice, Resurrection, I Will Find You, So We Meet Again, and Brave New World.

I have considered putting those poems, in particular, in that order for the next revision. Or, perhaps, explaining how the poems fit together in an appendix.

4) Why did you open with "She Stands With the Precipice"?

I opened with that one because I think it’s one of the best poems in the collection. And I love the song. It means a lot to me.

I can’t really listen to the song without getting emotional.

5) Why did you close with Crystalized?

Because it’s about hope, and transcending the troubles of life, and becoming something greater.

6) What does music mean to you?

Music is part of me. Without music I have no doubt I would not be here today. It saved my life. I’ve met so many friends through music. So many geniuses that lay their heart and souls on the line. It’s a lot like writing. It is writing really. Just a different channel. A different toolset.

7) What does poetry mean to you?

I’ve always loved poetry and short form writing. Saying something powerful in just a few words fascinates me. Even in my fiction I think *the words I don’t say* can be just as important as the words I do say. I WANT the reader to have to imagine, and to have to interpret, and to have feelings that are unique to themselves when they read my words.


Thanks for sharing, Mike.

End of the World Love Songs is available at Amazon.

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