Poems are made by fools like me

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan gives poetry a try

Keri Carlson

Since Bob Dylan, we have come to accept the belief that songwriters are poets.

Lyrics (the good ones) have form, rhythm, wordplay, imagery and often rhyme – all the makings of a poem. It’s hard to deny that a song is really a musical poem.

It makes sense then, that a musician would write a book of poetry. Many in fact have done this, yet most failed (Jewel). When musicians work with words without the help of a guitar, they get lost on the page. With no music to anchor them, their words wander like a headless Thoreau.

Unfortunately, former Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan falls into this same trap.

None of the poems on Corgan’s “Blinking With Fists” hold the same majesty as the songs he wrote with Smashing Pumpkins, such as “1979.” The major problem is that the poems sound forced. Corgan seems to abandon his songwriting process and instead, approaches his poems by trying to make them sound like a poem. It’s as though Corgan had an idea of what poetry ought to sound like and mimics the poetry we read in high school.

Many of the images Corgan uses – the sea, birds and love – sound cloyingly familiar. Especially the opening line in “Courage”: “There is of course the courage of a single flower/ Pushing its form thru concrete/ If only to be trampled into dust.”

“Blinking With Fists” is not without its moments. Corgan does have a knack for words as seen in “A Twixt the Twine”: “A twixt the twine and flowers divine/ Devise the deign in this copper wane/ Aghast the mask of ripping change/ Aloft amongst the highest paid.”

Because of Corgan’s previous influential work as a musician, perhaps his book is held against too high a standard. Corgan is already perceived as a poet. But this book is a disappointment.

While we should certainly continue to consider musicians in the same vein as poets, there needs to be a distinction between music writers and page writers. When you look at it this way, “Blinking With Fists” is still not a masterpiece, but there are some standout poems for a first effort. Corgan should not be ruled out as a writer.