"Poets" as written by Robert Baker, Gordon Downie, Johnny Fay, Joseph Paul Langlois and Robert Gordon Sinclair....
Spring starts when a heartbeat's pounding
When the birds can be heard above the reckoning carts doing some final accounting
Lava flowing in Superfarmer's direction
He's been getting reprieve from the heat in the frozen food section

Don't tell me what the poets are doing
Don't tell me that they're talking tough
Don't tell me that they're anti-social
Somehow not anti-social enough, all right

And porn speaks to it's splintered legions
To the pink amid the withered cornstalks in them winter regions
While aiming at the archetypal father
He said with such broad and tentative swipes why do you even bother?

Don't tell me what the poets are doing
Those Himalayas of the mind
Don't tell me what the poet's been doing
In the long grasses over time

Don't tell me what the poets are doing
On the street and the epitome of vague
Don't tell me how the universe is altered
When you find out how he gets paid, all right

If there's nothing more that you need now
The lawn cut by bare breasted women
Beach bleached towels within reach for the women
Got to make it, that'll make it by swimming


Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death

"Poets" as written by Johnny Fay Gordon Downie

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

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Poets song meanings
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  • +2
    General Comment"Superfarmer" is a reference to Agiricultural Business, it was a buzz term around the time of the albums realease to depict big Agro-Biz as more "human" rather than corporate. Large farms designed to mass produce for the masses. Global warming was just becoming an issue and was listed as a possible cause for draughts that were affecting Agro-businesses' profit margin, cleverly Downie says "lava flowing in Superfarmer's direction". Global warming here is cleverly depicted as a slow moving lava flow (heat from the earth-global warming inverted) moving towards "Superfarmer".

    Poets are generally seen as reflections of their time, I think in this song though Gordon is poking fun at the media, or the reflections of our time. "those Himalayas of the mind" or the high-minded, "the epitome of vague" in that the words they write are so removed from any real meaning so as not to offend readers or corporate sponsors and advertisers. The "porn speaks to it's splintered legions" is both commenting on "fringe" news or news outlets with a strong bias, it being like porn for those who seek it to satiate their viewpoint. Think Fox News for example, today.

    "The universe is altered" for many when they find out their heroes have "sold out" because we like to believe they do it for the enjoyment or the art or the love etc.... It's really just a comment on this phenomena and a mocking of that behavior of naivete.

    The last verse refers to a law passed in Ontario just before this album came out allowing women to go topless. Many news reports for some reason featured file footage of women cutting grass bare-breasted, I suppose because they were hot from the exertion and because you don't want to show women just lying bare-breasted on the beach, that'd be gratuitious ;) Anyway the summer came and went and nary a bare-breasted woman was to be seen. But in the build up to that summer, for many men and boys it seemed like there was "more that you need now". But the beach bleached women kept their towels within reach ;)
    ThatGirlHasAPointon November 07, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmy take...

    seems like there's two naratives. the critic's (in all likelihood, basically the real voice of gordon) and that of his resistant adversary.

    so - ok,

    "Spring starts when a heartbeat's pounding
    When the birds can be heard above the reckoning carts doing some final accounting
    Lava flowing in Superfarmer's direction
    He's been getting reprieve from the heat in the frozen-food section"

    this is gordon's voice. so spring starts with birds, but that they're being heard amidst the sound of this "reckoning"/"accounting" of our impact to nature itself. likely carts really means cars. they're noisy and fit the context that way but also represent the impact that we're having in pushing back nature. the word "final" in this is pretty ominous, and i'm sure it's meant to be that way.

    lava flowing in superfarmers direction. generally, farmers are on the wrong side of a lot of scary trends. basically implies the erosion of the land via overall nutritional decline in the soil from overfarming and possibly desertification, global warming, gene narrowing in general and the problems associated with it, and economic pressure from global food trading and attacks from the wto on farm subsidies in western countries. their reprieve is beautifully sychronized with the other metaphor - the lava - in the frozen foods section of the supermarket. selling what they can now before any of these eroding trends take hold.

    "Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    Don't tell me that they're talking tough
    Don't tell me that they're anti-social
    Somehow not anti-social enough "

    so ya, i believe (with the exception of the last line) that this is his adversary / sarcastic voice. basically saying, "don't worry about it" or a general "i don't want to hear it". the line about anti-social however... i believe that this is a play on words. i believe he's actually saying they're socially critical. this makes the fourth line look probably a lot less sarcastic with him saying that the social critics aren't even critical enough. an important statement in this song i feel.

    "And porn speaks to its splintered legions
    To the pink amid the withered cornstalks in them winter regions
    While aiming at the archetypal father
    He says with such broad and tentative swipes "Why do you even bother?" "

    this is a different trend he's taking on... pornography. you might be able to say he's describing an overall lack of importance to fidelity in our society or more simply how it too is eroding. splintered legions is kind of funny. it's not as though people are openly supporting porn. the archetypal father though... "why do you even bother" to try to find your wife as a sex object when porn is what turns you on. although the attacks aren't necessarily only there. the "broad swipes" also come in the form of the other criticisms he has to his role in society - particularly from other forms of social criticism on the whole. like if we're destroying nature and eroding the land via overfarming etc, then what of the people that want to be good, upstanding people? and again, the "why do you even bother" rings true although i don't believe he would mean it literally - only insofar as it incites action.

    "Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    Those Himalayas of the mind
    Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    In the long grasses over time..."

    chorus again, although "those himalayas of the mind" sounds pretty crazy. it's like double sarcasm. probably feels good singing it lol. it's a little different though in that he's sort of saying, "don't tell me what it is you predict for the future". words like "long" imply that the adversary/sarcastic voice believes it's a long way's out and may have an irrelevant tone.

    "Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    On the street and the epitome of vague
    Don't tell me how the universe is altered
    When you find out how he gets paid "

    the sarcastic tone criticizes the critics for being vague. typically a lot of social criticism comes out in the form of vague statements. "we're eroding the land", "this pollution is destroying us", or "our politicians are corrupt" or whatever. which isn't to say that examples don't exist - but it does tend to spiral towards that infinite conversation you'll never have.

    what he says in the 3rd and 4th lines is one of the more common criticisms people have in regards to corruption or biased influence. basically why lobbyists and lobbying companies exist - because of the results they get. this is the voice of that guy that just wants to be left alone - which brings us to the last bit.

    "If there's nothing more that you need now
    Lawn cut by bare-breasted women
    Beach bleached, towels within reach for the women gotta make it
    That'll make it by swimming "

    basically he's saying fuck you to that guy. take your complacency and denial and pampered life and fuck off.
    varon October 08, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow, I can't believe no one commented on this song! One of my favorites by the Hip!
    cal_01on November 19, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"getting reprieve from the heat in the frozen-food section" ... the irony is delicious, best line in the song!
    papyr_bag_princesson May 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of my favorite Hip songs, and it's a bit ambiguous. On the surface, yes, Gord seems to be decrying the uselessness and pomposity of poets and poetry, but on the other hand, the language he uses, "the pink amid the withered corn stalks", "himalayas of the mind" even "the epitome of vague", is itself very poetic. What are we to make of this.

    I think he's singing the chorus, and even the whole song, sarcastically. Gord has even called himself a poet on occasion, and I think what he's driving at here is that despite general concensus of society is that poetry is useless, there is still an undeniable value there.

    The second chorus here is wrong, and it's unfortunate, because I think that's where we get the real hint about his true feelings for poets and poetry. It goes like this --

    Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    Those Himalayas of the mind
    Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    In the long grasses over time...

    This is where the contradictions meet head on, the rote, mundane denial of the poet, meets the poets florid, language.

    Language wins! As we see in the last verse, which trails off in a stream of lush imagry...
    DevastatorJr.on January 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy rhymes suck, and this I know
    Because everybody told me so
    I keep scrawling just to get better
    And my talent falls under the weather
    Simplicity and coherent rhyming sound
    It drives the Morlocks further underground
    When my hands grab that vessel of ink
    I don't have the ability to make New Orleans sink
    Gord Downie snickers with subtle derision
    That I write these sad, sixth-grade compositions
    But the world rotates on the axis evermore
    And I rot nervous systems down to the core
    The worst poetry comes from my wedded hand
    And it causes secret societies to disband
    Say goodbye, worshippers of the serpent red
    Everybody in the world now must be dead
    Solitary is the most despised form of confinement
    The trigger is pulled and I get my eternal assignment
    And Gord Downie screams about poets are anti-social
    And all his fans at the concerts are going postal!
    OpinionHeadon June 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the Hip is trying to make the connection between poetry and music., and the obsession we all have with celebrity (at the expense of our own experience of the world).
    Knyleon July 26, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think most of you guys are reading too much into this, most of the lines are nonsense, but beautiful nonsense. it's mostly about poetry itself, which has a lot to do with just the way words sound together. gord downie is brilliant, and in a an art form full of incredibly simplistic lyrics, his tower above the rest. those himalayas of the mind indeed.
    alloowishuson May 08, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentmost of the lines are about pot... beutiful, beautiful pot.
    Or maybe its about the desire to legalize pot being crushed by an obstinate government.
    this song is from 1998 or so, right?

    So once upon a time...
    the Liberals are running Canada and a small number of Canadians are asking them to legalize pot...

    The government says: "Don't tell me what the poets are doing in those Himalayas of the mind",
    meaning, of course,
    "don't tell me how great it is to get high, to the highest part of the mind, where the poetry, art, and beauty in the world come from. Don't tell me about that."
    "Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    In the long grasses over time..." Grass, again... is a pot puffed word (btw the lyrics are wrong right now)

    Government vs. Pot is like culture v. nature... or Civilization and its Disconents.

    The Canadian government doesn't want to know that all of the artists who produce culture for it are also on drugs. Art is born of a free mind, but the government wants the culture without the freedom/ Boo!
    "Don't tell me what the poets are doing" they say
    "Don't tell me what they do on the street, how they get paid, or how the bloody universe is altered when you try it!" Governments dont deal with the 'reality' of marijuana's prevelence in their country. They dont want to hear about it. Its never going to be legal, they say. The government is mean like that.

    The obstinate government, identified in the lyrics as the "He who aims to be the Archetypal Father", does reach out an olive branch of peace to those liberals looking for some more freedom. Around the time this song was released, the Canadian government enacted a law that allowed women to be topless in public (unfortunately, Canadian women proved to have too much sense to take up this offer. Too bad for the men, but really its much too cold to go around topless). This legislation is the origin of the next line: "there's nothing more that you need now that your lawn is cut by bare breasted women", which is 'thanks to us' says the government. 'You're welcome for the topless women, so dont bother asking for anything more, like legalized pot. No way, hoser.' And thats why to this day (2011) possession of pot is illegal in Canada... because the liberals offered us public nudity instead. And that never panned out so everyone loses except the women.

    That stroy is as true as any of the Hip's true histories, and more subtle than some of their other pot songs.
    cerberusalphaon January 19, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Lyric Correction2nd Chorus
    Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    Those Himalayas of the mind
    Don't tell me what the poets are doing
    In the long grasses over time...


    Really you need those two lines (mind, grasses) to get the song. Really.
    cerberusalphaon January 19, 2011   Link

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