A poet has the power to capture a world of experience in just a few words. Don Williams noted this as he discussed the Bob McDill-penned song Good Old Boys Like Me. In commenting on the lines “Then daddy came in to kiss his little man / With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand / He talked about honor and things I should know / Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door,” he said, “That’s a novel.”
And he’s right. I think on those lines and I know the man and his history, or maybe even world of histories, opens up before my eyes.
While I’m using country music, let me bring up my favorite example of this: Third Rock from the Sun, written by Tony Martin and covered by Joe Diffie. This song manages to pack into three minutes more drama and humor than is typically delivered in a two hour movie. Indeed the lines “He leaves the motor runnin’, he’ll only be a minute / His car drives away with teenagers in it / The driver tells his buddies got one life to live / They scream into the night, let’s get it over with” captures a particular strata of our male youth better than all of the Dukes of Hazzard TV series and all the Smokey and the Bandit movies put together.
I am not a poet.
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