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. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Summer Rerun #5 – Summer Reverie

Reverie: absentminded dreaming while awake; 
a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts.

Originally Posted Saturday, August 14, 2010

For me, during these “dog days” of summer, reverie means sitting in my gazebo (with my Yorkie next to me) and being “pleasantly lost” in thought to the music of birds, crickets, and cicadas. Sometimes my “absentminded dreamings” become poems.

For your reverie poem: 

1. Take a walk, lie on the grass, lounge in your favorite lawn chair (or, if the outdoor weather isn’t cooperative, relax on a sofa or other comfortable place in your home). Any time is fine, but try doing this in the morning or evening.
2. Keep paper and a pen or pencil nearby. 
3. Simply unwind, free your mind of distractions, and let yourself daydream. 
4. Write down some of the things that come to you, and don’t try to organize your thoughts. 
5. Later in the day (or the next day), go back to the notes you took during your reverie and look for inspiration. Is there something there that you can develop into a poem? What did you daydream about? What did your reverie bring to mind? Instead of one poem, you might find material for several short poems or a sequence of short poems. Your reverie may take a traditional, experimental, or fantasy form (and it's not necessary to use the word “reverie” in your title.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Rerun #4 – Tickle Your Taste Buds with Guest Prompter Diane Lockward

Originally Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Note: This week’s summer rerun is a guest prompt by Diane Lockward.
From Diane:

I’m often asked why I write poems about food. My interest, of course, goes back to childhood. I was a fussy eater whose father insisted that every plate be cleaned. I became adept at surreptitiously getting rid of food I found disgusting. While I had no appetite for vegetables, I had a big sweet tooth. But the foods I loved—cake, cookies, candy, ice cream sundaes—were prohibited by my father who wanted me slender. My cravings only increased. On the sly I consumed entire jars of Marshmallow Fluff.

At some level, perhaps, I'd begun equating food with risk, danger, punishment, deprivation, desire, hunger.

I went to Sunday school and met Eve and learned about the garden, the snake, and the apple. I must have filed all of that away for future use. Fruit, temptation, capitulation, expulsion, abandonment.

I saw the film, Tom Jones, and was mesmerized by that famous eating scene in which Tom and a buxom woman he meets at an inn sit at opposite ends of a long table and proceed to rip apart chicken legs and stuff their faces with juicy grapes, all the while gazing at each other with seduction in their eyes. Food and sex. Of course! 

So for me food has all kinds of connotations. I don't think I'm unique in that. Consider, too, how many of our social rituals are connected to food. Special dishes for special occasions. Romantic dinners. Repasts. And memories. Aren't there certain foods that call up memories, good or bad? And think of the sensory appeal of food; every part of the body is somehow involved. Finally, food intrigues me for its rich metaphorical potential. For example, in my poem, “The First Artichoke,” the artichoke becomes emblematic of a family with its many layers, its heart at the center, a heart that’s fragile. 

I'd like to add that while the title of my second book, What Feeds Us, invites the conclusion that I am a “food poet,” in fact, that collection contains only nine poems that are overtly about food, and each one of those nine is really about something else. Look at my poem, ”Linguini”—is it really about pasta?


It was always linguini between us. 
Linguini with white sauce, or 
red sauce, sauce with basil snatched
from the garden, oregano rubbed between 
our palms, a single bay leaf adrift amidst 
plum tomatoes. Linguini with meatballs, 
sausage, a side of brascioli. Like lovers 
trying positions, we enjoyed it every way 
we could—artichokes, mushrooms, little 
neck clams, mussels, and calamari—linguini 
twining and braiding us each to each.
Linguini knew of the kisses, the smooches,
the molti baci. It was never spaghetti
between us, not cappellini, nor farfalle,
vermicelli, pappardelle, fettucini, perciatelli, 
or even tagliarini. Linguini we stabbed, pitched, 
and twirled on forks, spun round and round 
on silver spoons. Long, smooth, and always 
al dente. In dark trattorias, we broke crusty panera, 
toasted each other—La dolce vita!—and sipped 
Amarone, wrapped ourselves in linguini, 
briskly boiled, lightly oiled, salted, and lavished 
with sauce. Bellissimo, paradisio, belle gente!
Linguini witnessed our slurping, pulling, and 
sucking, our unraveling and raveling, chins 
glistening, napkins tucked like bibs in collars,
linguini stuck to lips, hips, and bellies, cheeks 
flecked with formaggio—parmesan, romano, 
and shaved pecorino—strands of linguini flung 
around our necks like two fine silk scarves.

Click Here to View the Rest of the Prompt

Click Here to Visit Diane Online