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May 27, 2008


Students enrolled in “Practical Criticism” at Cambridge University were asked to compare the poetry of Sir Walter Raleigh with “Boots of Spanish Leather” by Bob Dylan, “Fine and Mellow” Billy Holiday and/or “Love is a Losing Game” by Amy Winehouse. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “lyric” as “Of or pertaining to the lyre; adapted to the lyre, meant to be sung”. It also quotes Ruskin’s maxim “lyric poetry is the expression by the poet of his own feelings”. Compare poem (a) on the separate sheet [a lyric by Sir Walter Ralegh, written 1592] with one or two of the song-lyrics (b)-(d) with reference to these diverse senses of “lyric”

One student said: “I wouldn’t consider a controversial pop singer a literary figure”

We say: “Cambridge University is the place for us!  We compare and contrast pop stars and badly dressed celebrity wives with poets and fictioneers on a daily basis.  We consider pressing issues, such as: “Is flarf REALLY the new black?” and “should we buy Jorie Graham this’Sea Change’ shirt that’s on sale on or is that stalker-ish?” as well as “Is it ok to look for Jim Behrle in every crowded room?” on an f-ing daily basis.  Hell, where most of our generation has butterflies or fairies with flowers tattooed where the back meets the butt, our tramp stamp says LYRIC POETRY.”


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