Dear Editor,

Adam Kirsch’s review of the Anthology of Rap [“How Ya Like Me Now,” February 2011] follows the editors of the anthology itself in believing that rap lyrics have a value independent of the backbeat and the hook. Why textualize (and, thereby, decontextualize) this form of music? Why do we think there is any profit to be derived in comparing poetry, which is written down mostly for individual readers, and rap, which is thrown down in front of a crowd? Wouldn’t it be wiser to compare apples to apples—say, rock lyrics and rap lyrics? To examine their relative foregrounding of words or music? We might arrive at some interesting conclusions—we might see, for example, how rap, like the lieder of Schubert and the songs of Bob Dylan, emphasizes lyrics over instrumentation, and verbal over musical virtuosity. Or how rap represents the very limit of this phenemenon; or the irony that verse-averse America created this music that is the closest music can come to verse and still stay music. These are the dynamics of rap that deserve scholarly study and critical acumen. The editors of this anthology have collected, and Kirsch in his review has discussed, something that is neither rap nor poetry.

Originally Published: June 1st, 2011

The son of immigrants, poet and novelist Amit Majmudar grew up in the Cleveland area. He earned a BS at the University of Akron and an MD at Northeast Ohio Medical University, completing his medical residency at the University Hospitals of Cleveland.   In his precise, often formally driven poems,...

Appeared in Poetry Magazine This Appears In