Back in 2010 (Prompt #21), we worked with music and poetry. Because music and poetry have been called “fraternal twins,” I thought this week might be a good time to revisit music as our “muse” – this time with a slightly different slant and a focus on lyric poetry.
Music and poetry are known to have been combined since ancient times in Greece where dramatists and poets composed music to complement their works. The form of poetry best associated with music is lyric poetry, defined by Britannica online as, “a verse or poem that is, or supposedly is, susceptible of being sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument (in ancient times, usually a lyre) or that expresses intense personal emotion in a manner suggestive of a song. Lyric poetry expresses the thoughts and feelings of the poet and is sometimes contrasted with narrative poetry and verse drama, which relate events in the form of a story. Elegies, odes, and sonnets are all important kinds of lyric poetry.”
William Shakespeare wrote 160 songs for use in his plays (intended for drum, flute, and lute accompaniment). Later, lyric poetry was popularized by the romantic poets (Byron, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, and others). By the 20th century, lyric poetry was predominantly rhymed and based in emotional and personal feelings. Lyricism was challenged by modernist poets (including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams) who promoted complex thought over melodic language. After World War II, a renaissance of interest in lyric poetry was felt – this adopted traditional lyricism with a personal component. Later in the century, the confessional poets (including Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton) introduced a form of “tell-all” lyric poetry that dealt with relationships, intimacy, and both domestic and personal life. Today contemporary poets embrace lyricism in a range of individual styles.
Suggestions for Writing:
1. Write a poem based on the music in this YouTube musical selection Hans Zimmer – Light. Close your eyes or view the pictures, sit back, and let the music “speak” to you. Then, listen again, and this time jot down ideas, words, phrases, and images that occur to you while listening. Use these to compose your poem.
2. Write a poem in which you reference music, a particular style of music, musical instruments, specific musicians, or the love of sound.
3. You might want to try taking a different piece of music (not the sample above) and writing your own words to it. Alternatively, you might write a lyric poem first and then set it to music. In either case, choose a musical work that you especially like or are drawn to and match your words to its rhythms. Be flexible and let the music and words work together.
4. Song lyrics are a kind of poetry, and ballads have long been associated with music, often being sung. When words are added to music, a story emerges. Although ballads are considered narrative poems, they have a strong musical quality. Try writing a ballad. (Be aware of the poem’s “music” and the ballad refrain).
6. The language of music is understood by all cultures. Write a poem about the music of your national heritage. How is the music of this country different from others?
Note: Whichever suggestion works for you this week, be sure to pay particular attention to the sound quality in your poem (alliteration, assonance, internal or external rhyme).
Poems About Music