Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Awards Sonnet and the power of poetry

At the Tony Awards, Lin-Manuel Miranda continued to be a treasure. When the creator of Hamilton won his Tony for best score, Miranda read a sonnet instead of giving a traditional acceptance speech. The beautiful poem was dedicated to his wife Vanessa and also touched on the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that had happened early that morning. You can watch video of him performing the end of the poem below, or you can read the full text here.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004467857

This was not the first poem I experienced on Sunday. Earlier, I had been thinking about growing older and decided to pull out my 20+ year-old copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry in order to read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. It was even lovelier than I remembered, perhaps in part to my greater understanding of it since like Prufrock “I grow old…I grow old…”

That bout of literary nostalgia was a rare one. I don’t read poetry very often, other than in my children’s books.

Song lyrics are a type of poetry, but they are not the same. They are not meant to stand alone. Lyrics go with their music. Because of that, the fate of the words is tied to melody and arrangement. Mediocre lyrics can become an exceptionally moving song when paired with the right music and artist. Conversely, brilliant lyrics may get lost in a bad accompaniment.

Poetry must create its own music. It has no notes or rests to define its rhythm, so it must use other things: meter, rhyme, punctuation, white space, brevity, and repetition. Oh, I do love well-executed repetition. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” T.S. Eliot’s”‘Do I dare?’ and ‘Do I dare?'” and so many more recurring phrases in Prufrock.

I should read more poetry. I should write more poetry. I should indulge in words like I did when I was younger. I do love them so. I can’t guarantee that I’ll write the next Hamilton, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

lin-manuel miranda tony awards sonnet quote

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