Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer Rerun #8 – Music & Poetry

Originally Posted Saturday, September 4, 2010

“Music resembles poetry: in each are nameless graces…
 – Alexander Pope (“Essay on Criticism”)

Music and poetry have been linked for centuries; in fact, poetry predates written forms and was originally recited aloud or sung rather than read. Poetry, even free verse, has maintained a musical quality in rhythms, meters, rhymes, articulation, and phonetic timbre. In poetry, as in music, texture is often achieved through contrasting smooth lyrical sounds and staccato or discordant sounds; in poetry, alliteration and assonance, internal and external rhyme, imagery, and mood all add to a poem's “sonic texture.” 

Interestingly, while poetry is often inspired by music, music is also inspired by poetry.  One of the best examples is Stéphane Mallarmé's poem “L'Après-midi d'un Faune” (“The Afternoon of a Faun”), written in 1876. This poem inspired Debussy’s tone poem of the same title. Debussy completed the work in 1894; in 1912, it was choreographed by Nijinsky and premiered by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Chatelet, Paris (with Nijinsky as the Faun).  

1. For this prompt, let’s use music to inspire a poem. 
2. Select a piece of music that you haven’t listened to in a long time (or music that you’ve never heard before). 
3. Before you listen to your music and begin to write, consider how other poets have used music to inspire their poems.
4. Now, relax and listen to the music you’ve chosen. 
5. How does the music speak to you? 
6. How do the tempo, rhythms, and meters of the music make you feel? 
7. What images does the music invoke? 
8. Does the music cause you to recall a particular time or experience? A person? 
9. Does the music create an atmosphere of discovery that you can translate into written language? 
10. What story emerges from the music? 

Remember, you needn’t write about the music but, rather, what the music suggests to you. 

Alternatively, you might try writing a poem about what music in general means to you; or you may write about a piece of music that has a special meaning for you. Sample opening phrases: 
  • They were playing our song…
  • I never hear that song without remembering... 
  • But, then, I heard the music…
  • Nothing but sound and… 
  • Where the music was…

Another “musical” possibility for this prompt is to write new lyrics for an old song. Oh, and if you’re musically inclined, how about writing a poem and setting it to your own music?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer Rerun #7 – Memory's Toyshop

Originally  Posted Saturday, August 28, 2010

When I was little, there were no media-linked toys, iPods, laptops, or cell phones. For many children of my era, the toys we loved best were little green plastic army men, Hula-Hoops, Slinkies, Ginny and Barbie dolls, Play-Doh, and Mr. Potato Head (played with real potatoes). However, any toy, from any era, will be great for this prompt. 

First, think back to your childhood and recall a toy that was special to you. “Freewrite” about that toy for a few minutes. How is this toy the memory-trigger for a past experience and/or relationship? Write a poem about (1) the toy, (2) about a memory triggered by your recollection of the toy, or (3) about a person you associate with the toy. Alternatively, you might write about a toy that was special to your child or to a pet. You might enjoy writing a persona poem from the perspective of a toy. It's playtime!


By Linda Radice

The kid in the commercial had straight stairs 
for the coil to work its way down. The three

story staircase in our house had landings that 
turned. My slinky required a nudge around 

corners, but guided close to the railing it went 
smoothly past Uncle Joe who came to visit 

great-grandma every Thursday afternoon, and 
slid by my grandfather in his gardening shoes at 

sun up. I could make it glide with my father’s run 
when the fire whistle called him to the station, and 

work it around my mother – the constant between
each floor stepping quickly, my brother on her hip, 

to check on my grandmother after her stroke.  
The staircase and the house around it are for sale,
the rest of the people who walked there are gone,
sixty years of footsteps that wore the wood smooth.

I perfected Slinky’s twisted descent long ago – the kid 
with the straight stairs has nothing on me.

Copyright © 2015 by Linda Radice. All Rights Reserved. 
From What We Can't Keep (Little Poodle Press, 2015).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer Rerun #6 – Color Your Poems

Originally Posted, Saturday, August 21, 2010

For your color poem:

Begin by taking a “color inventory” of your life. What colors do you like to live with? If you had to live with a single color what would it be? What is your favorite color? What colors do you associate with the best or worst times of your life? What colors do you associate with people, places, experiences? Following are ten possibilities for color poems:

1. Write a poem about a color without naming the color and without using one of its synonyms (for example, don’t use “crimson” in place of “red” or “azure” in place of “blue”).

2. What color is your life? Write a poem about your life’s color(s). 

3. Write about an experience using colors to set the “tone.”

4. Compare a relationship to a color.

5. Compare a person to a color. 

6. Compare your job (or creative work) to a color.

7. What is your life’s “rainbow?” 

8. Write a poem about a place (scene, landscape) and use colors to highlight descriptions and details.

9. Think about implied colors as in Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Wordsworth only mentions “golden” once, but the sense of “yellow” is strongly present throughout the poem. Try this in a poem of your  own. Click Here to Read Wordsworth's Poem

10. As an alternative to color, write a poem about something colorless.