Saturday, June 9, 2012

Prompt #104 – Music As Muse

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). 

5. Write an elegy, an ode or a sonnet.

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


  1. REALLY nice, Adele! I like the idea of music and poetry "holding hands."


    1. Thanks, Jamie! What do you think of the Zimmer music?

    2. A perfect mix of music and words in this old (1971) song:
      P.F.M. Impressioni di settembre

      Mogol - Pagani - Mussida


      Quante gocce di rugiada intorno a me
      cerco il sole, ma non c'è.
      Dorme ancora la campagna, forse no,
      è sveglia, mi guarda, non so.
      Già l'odor di terra, odor di grano
      sale adagio verso me,
      e la vita nel mio petto batte piano,
      respiro la nebbia, penso a te.
      Quanto verde tutto intorno, e ancor più in là
      sembra quasi un mare d'erba,
      e leggero il mio pensiero vola e va
      ho quasi paura che si perda...
      Un cavallo tende il collo verso il prato
      resta fermo come me.
      Faccio un passo, lui mi vede, è già fuggito
      respiro la nebbia, penso a te.
      No, cosa sono adesso non lo so,
      sono un uomo, un uomo in cerca di se stesso.
      No, cosa sono adesso non lo so,
      sono solo, solo il suono del mio passo.
      e intanto il sole tra la nebbia filtra già
      il giorno come sempre sarà.

      On the video there are english subtitles ( translation is not mine)

    3. Jago/Ales - Thank you so much for sharing this! "Visions of September" (Impressioni di settembre) - beautiful, beautiful music and lyrics! The Italian language is so musical to being with, and the subtitles help with understanding the words.

  2. I like the music you chose for this prompt. I also like "Visions of September" posted by Jago. You're right about the Italian language - it's very musical as I remember from the months I lived and worked there. Thanks for another great prompt!

  3. My first attempt writing lyrics.

    Not my best work ever, but this was a really fun exercise.

    1. Hi Tanya! Thanks so much for posting the link to your wonderful lyrics. First attempt! I think you did a great job! Thanks again for sharing with us!

  4. Hi Adele,

    I've been extremely busy and only now catching up on your blog posts. As always, amazing material for writing and pondering.

    Congrats to you on the International Book Award. I was able to purchase What Matters here in Ireland from a seller in DUblin. It's a skillfully written and tremendously powerful collection! Go maire tú an lá!

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  5. Thanks so much, Maire! It's always good to hear from you. Thanks for your congrats and for your kind words on What Matters!

  6. If all sounds were pleasant
    I would be more comfortable
    The AC and frig sing duets all day!
    In momentary lapses of quiet
    I breath deeply
    sighing into the silence.
    His recorded message
    rings in my ears
    solidifying him in my imagination.
    Notes of left-over time
    leave trails of unfinished phrases
    as I wait in the
    rhythm of life
    only by his energy.

    1. If only all sounds were pleasant! Thanks, Risa, for posting and sharing your poem!

      (I know that AC and refrigerator duet!)

    2. Nice, Risa! Again, your cut-to-the chase, direct style. Thanks for sharing!

      Where is Russ Loar - haven't heard form him in a while? And Jago, too. I always enjoy their comments.


  7. You inspire me, Adele. I must have said that before, but it is worth repeating.

    1. Thanks, Risa! I think all of us involved in the arts should try to inspire one another!