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Now This is Something I Understand

A refrain is a word, a phrase, a line, or a group of lines repeated at intervals in a poem.
Hamilton, Essential Literary Terms (226-246) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

Of course, I have heard of this term before. I will admit, however, that this is the first I heard this term used with poetry. Before, I always thought that this was only associated with music. I guess it makes sense, though, that poetry and songs have this in common. Songs basically are poetry. The only difference between the two is that songs are sung whereas poetry is spoken.


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Comments (2)

Margaret Jones:

What you wrote in your blog is exactly the same thoughts that ran through my mind when reading the section on refrains. I always associated refrains with music especially hymns. But I can see now how poetry includes refrains like music does as well.

Poetry and song lyrics do have a lot in common, but a singer can sing a verse with a half note in it one time and then the next time make it two quarter notes. So a song lyricist can play fast and loose with the meter, in a way that a poet cannot. In addition, singer can sing the same refrain with different emotional quality, with different instrumentation, so that the same words can carry different meanings. Add to that the fact that many people mentally see the music video when they hear a song, and you can see that song lyrics are just part of what makes a song "work" in the 21stC.

A poet has nothing but the words. That's why every syllable of a poem has to be carefully planned.

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