Click to play this YouTube playlist curated by Charles K. Carter to accompany his first full-length poetry collection, Read My Lips. Some songs are referenced in the collection. Some songs inspired certain poems. Others are songs Carter loves that connect thematically to his own work. Hit play and read Carter’s notes for each pick below.
“Monarch X” Melissa Etheridge – This song serves as epigraphs for the collection’s section breaks. It’s no secret that Etheridge is my favorite artist. Metamorphosis is a recurring theme throughout Read My Lips, not just how we evolve and change as people but also how our perception of love evolves as we age and encounter love from all angles.
“Let Him Fly” The Chicks – Many songs in this playlist feature the idea of flying to tie in with the butterfly imagery in the collection. The somber tone of this song fits with the ending lines of the prelude poem “Two Caterpillars.”
“Caterpillar” Big Brother & The Holding Company – The first poem in the first section of Read My Lips is “Caterpillar.” It is the first in a trio of poems that follow the metamorphosis of a young child stuck in a complex world with no heart, leading to adulthood. The Big Brother & The Holding Company song fits in with the child-like fun and naivety that begins this collection. Plus Janis Joplin is a goddess!
“From This Moment On” Shania Twain – Skip ahead to “Roller Rink” and this Shania Twain ballad is referenced by name. Twain’s Come On Over album was a staple in my childhood. She was on the radio all the time. My mom played her cassettes in the car. And, yes, she was played frequently at the local roller rink.
“Ocean Avenue” Yellowcard – Though I grew up in the Midwest, this song seems fitting for a summer romance in a beach town – even if the beach was at a lake instead of the ocean (“The Moon”). Plus this song was huge jam every summer throughout the first decade of the 2000’s.
“Wannabe” Spice Girls – Does this song need an introduction? “The Sun” references singing to the Spice Girls on the radio. How can you not get excited and sing along when you hear the opening notes to this song?
“Movies” Ashanti – “Green Light” is about being hung up on this Hollywood fairy tale ideal of romance and how far away that can seem from reality, especially for a young queer kid. Ashanti’s song represents the longing to be in a Hollywood movie romance.
“The Getaway” Hilary Duff – “The Getaway” song title literally became the poem’s title. Read the poem. Listen to the song. It speaks for itself.
“Basset Hound” Jillette Johnson – Jillette Johnson is phenomenal and this song not only references a dog like “Hound Dog” but also reflects the desire to connect with someone even if it’s not the healthiest of connections. Sometimes we want to be loved and we are willing to grasp at whatever comes our way, not knowing that we deserve better.
“Burning” Sam Smith – This is another one that speaks for itself. Read “Shine” and then listen to “Burning.” Sometimes we can’t handle the flame in our own chests.
“Headfirst for Halos” My Chemical Romance – The second section of Read My Lips opens up with “Cocoon” which references being wrapped in a “cocoon of emo pop punk music.” This is one of the songs that I rocked out to a lot as a teenager, a poppy punk rock song with incredibly disturbing lyrics. My Chemical Romance, HIM, The Used, Evanescence…those were the days.
“Live Wire” Sheryl Crow featuring Bonnie Raitt & Mavis Staples – The opening lyrics to “Live Wire” impeccably describe a stubborn lover and that really connects to some of the earlier pieces in the second section of the collection. “Having a Drink with You” and “Lovers in Constant Motion” highlight how naive, stubborn, and blind we can be in our first “real” relationships.
“Anything But Down” Sheryl Crow – This song accompanies the play on the word “down” in “Word Search.” Sheryl Crow is awesome and deserves to be on the playlist twice.
“Drowning” Jay Brannan – “Drowning” is a seriously depressing song that I connect with the heartbreak in “When I Dream of the Ocean.” Jay Brannan is an underrated singer-songwriter. He’s an indie-alternative-folk singer with an angelic voice and an incredible sense of humor. Still, he knows how to penetrate the heart of a listener and break it over and over again. This tune doesn’t show his full range of artistic brilliance – check out his album Goddamned.
“One Day I’ll Fly Away” Nicole Kidman – This song comes from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Nicole Kidman has a stellar voice. Musicals were a big part of my adolescence. I feel like this song could continue after the narrative in “The Pigeon & The Owl” ends.
“Ain’t No Sunshine” Bill Withers – We all know this song. There’s a reason it is so popular. It’s gold. There “Ain’t No Sunshine” in “Chasing Sunshine.”
“Like the Way I Do” Melissa Etheridge – This song is called out by name in “Time.” Though the romance in this poem is fictionalized, the referenced favorites are all true. Melissa is my favorite. So is Will & Grace and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
“Butterfly” Weezer – I literally picked this song because it came up when I searched for the word “butterfly” in my music library.
“Take It All” Adele – Adele conveys emotion like few singers can and this song has always been one of my favorites of hers. “Take It All” hits the same notes as the poem “Take Take Take.”
“Just This Good” Levi Kreis – The poem “When I Knew You Loved Me” starts with “When I knew you loved me, when I knew it was real.” I wanted to say “when I knew it was this good” but that felt like I ripping off this sweet song about falling deeply in love with someone, feeling that roller coaster of warmth and giddy happiness in one’s chest. Have you ever felt so happy in love with someone that you had an amusement park spinning inside you?
“Chrome Plated Heart” Melissa Etheridge – “Heart” is all about questioning what life would be like if we weren’t so burdened by our wild hearts. What if our hearts were mechanical? What if I had a “Chrome Plated Heart” like Melissa sang about in the late 80’s?
“Threesome” Melissa Etheridge – What can I say? Melissa is the soundtrack to my life anymore. “Searching” is about searching for something more in a relationship, about letting go of the fairy tale monogamous “you-complete-me” Hollywood BS and allowing oneself to be completely open with their partner about their desires and feelings, even if that means exploring intimacy with another.
“Mannequin” Katy Perry – “Geppetto” is about a boy who isn’t really a boy. I thought he was a puppet. Katy Perry thought he was a mannequin. Potato, patato.
“Love Was a River” Beach – “Bottom Feeder” references a lover who lives in a river and Beach questions if love is the river in this funky song. Electronic violin solo, anyone?
“Loved Used to Be” Jewel – This song is simply beautiful. Jewel’s lyrics seem so simple but still they tug at your heartstrings and leave you weeping. I hope my poems could make you feel a fraction of what Jewel makes me feel. Lyrics at the end of this song were almost featured as an epitaph for this collection. The idea that “love used to be” coincides with the love narrative in the collection – love used to be this unrealistic fairy tale ideal. I’m not sure what love is but I’m shedding the toxic, limiting views of love and opening up to something new. Love is in this world. Let’s hold hands and look for it together.