Poetry Friday: the English language

July 17, 2009

I wrote something which started good but ended badly, so I would like to focus on language today. The English language is not really a pretty language, it is too complex and contains a very inconsistent system of rules. No matter how people seem to twist the words around, it still does not sound very musical and requires a lot of work for anything to turn out just right. Because of the complexity of the English language, with some words being impossible to rhyme ie “orange” and “animal”, writing original songs after hundreds of years of recycling the same words is a challenge at best.

In my experience there are 2 languages which facilitate original songwriting very well; Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Japanese language is very structured and is actually very easy to learn because of the strict rules in terms of syntax and the organization of its alphabet. It is very easy to find rhymes for words, making lyrics very easy to write. Furthermore, some words have double meanings and some phrases have associated historical relevance, making it easier to write powerfully. It is for this reason that I like listening to Japanese songs more than English ones. The imagery in jpop is just so much richer than that of it’s English counterparts. Of course I can probably find an English song with my desired level of imagery but as I said before, English is such a cumbersome beast of a language.

Probably the only thing that trumps Japanese music is Mandarin Chinese music. The language is so powerful because one word says so much. Unfortunately, for the amount of people in China and Taiwan (>1 billion) they sure don’t pump out very many good singers nor do they write many good songs that have stuck in my head. The lyrics all seem very reminiscent of western culture and that is disappointing, especially when compared to Japanese songs which so often includes snapshots of its rich culture in the lyrics. The only Mandarin singer I love is David Tao, everybody else is really just average.

I actually would like to write something in Chinese or Japanese, but I just don’t have a strong enough grasp of either language to do so. The best I can do is to emulate the style and imagery using English which does fall very short of the bar. The poem I wrote actually has nothing to do with this post, but here it is anyways!

heavenly hearts

god gave us hearts-
and that is why i live with hope
and not despair;
maybe tomorrow i shall know you better
than not at all.

his eyes are the stars in the sky
and the dewdrops on the grass,
i am jealous that he
watches over you
better than i.

god gave us life
to live as freely as we choose,
but sometimes,
our hearts decide
who we give ourselves to.

likewise,
our hearts decide
who we receive and reject
and sometimes-
you may not be enough.

god gave me you
so i could learn to love like him-
a gift is a gift, i expect nothing in return;
i will pray instead
that he continues to love you
as much as i do.

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