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Poem Tryouts — Listen Up: Can You Hear That?

10:32 a.m. — Walnut Creek

listening to whatever my mum is playing on her CD player in the other room — ah, Leonard Cohen

Hi everyone. Sound is my favourite type of imagery and technique. As imagery, sound is more immediate than even visual, for me. As a technique — rhyme, external and internal; sound colour, or timbre — I find it the most challenging and fun to incorporate.

Before the fun, a chart that helped me when I was training my ear for writing:

SOUND COLOR:

RESONANCE n, m, ng, z, zh lingering,droning, vibrant effects

HARSHNESS k, g, hard c throaty sounds, for dissonance and cacophony

PLOSIVENESS b, p, t, d, g, k, percussive sounds

EXERCISES:bagpipe-BW

Today, we can go in many directions, so long as sound is the primary focus. 1) The first possibility is to make sound imagery the primary imagery in your poem. So, we’re thinking whispers, sirens, bells, specific music genres, yelling — you know: things readers will hear as soon as they read the sound.

2) Next possibility, is to write a poem where you use rhyming techniques. If working with end rhymes horrifies you, play with internal rhymes. Great fun, I assure you.

Hear the clickety-clackety?

Hear the clickety-clackety?

3) Or, try a poem where you use the technique of onomatopoeia, words that sound like what they describe — buzz, whoop, zap, smoosh. You may wish to throw all caution to the winds and try a poem that is all onomatopoeic.  Some of the most fun I have had was writing a poem ‘Outside the Woodshed’ which is completely onomatopoeic words.

4) For a more specific prompt try this:

Sit for five to ten minutes with your back to an open window. Using only sounds as your clues, describe everything happening outside–don’t be tempted to turn around. Then turn around and add the things you missed, but should have heard.

dirtbike-coloring-sheetYou can change this up, by changing your location. Go into your yard, if you have one, and sit facing the house. Repeat instructions for writing. Or, go to a mall, park, any place you think of with sounds, and sit so you are not watching the scene, and follow the above instructions. Once you have your piece of prose, then, as with any found piece, pull out the words, images, and phrases you like, decide the story and point of view you want and write a poem.

music notes5) A final possibility is to use music as a source for your poem. This is a type of prompt that produces very different poems from my usual, when I try it. The sound and rhythm of the music chooses the story and sometimes, the form. This is an exercise that, if you like it, you can go to town finding your own music. The only rule: no words. That’s where you come in. I suggest pieces roughly four minutes long;  if you have a longer piece set a timer, or if you have been grabbed by inspiration, write on. This is a slightly different take on a freewrite. Like free-writing, you are not worrying about form, or grammar, or sense. You may find a story as you write. I often write scenes my mind sees when listening to a piece, but if what you get is a collection of lines, or images, that’s wonderful. More resources for your pool.

Those should keep you out of trouble and off the streets. I have been enjoying the summer poems that have been coming in and am heading from this to read last week’s crop.

Happy writing, all.

 
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Posted by on 30/07/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryout: 8×10

9:32 am, Tuesday, 11 January, 2011 – Atlanta

8×10

Make three columns. In the first column jot down ten verbs whose SOUND you like; in the second column, list ten nouns whose SOUND you like; and in the third column list ten adjectives/adverbs whose SOUND you like. Circle FIVE words in each column. Do not worry about the words going together. That would be more restrictive than you might think. Then again, don’t worry if the words do go together.

Write a paragraph [or more] in which you include all fifteen words. This can be a freewrite to loosen you up, or if you already have an idea, follow it.

Create a ten line poem, with eight syllables in each line, and five rhymes. The rhymes may be end rhymes, slant rhymes or internal rhymes.

friends/bends
clear/sincerely
save/salve
feast at least once
moose on the loose

SOUND COLOR:

RESONANCE    n, m, ng, z, zh        lingering,droning, vibrant effects

HARSHNESS    k, g, hard c        throaty sounds, for dissonance and cacophony

PLOSIVENESS    b, p, t, d, g, k,         percussive sounds

A nice, gentle structure, but enough to make you work at it. The trick is in not having the poem sound like it is bound by the structure, but to let the structure enhance the poem.

As always, I would love to see what you come up with. Post in comments or leave a link where the poem can be read.

I am taking a snow day tomorrow. My husband has had two snow days and I figure I deserve one! I also want to think about the evolution of this blog and make a few decisions. So, I will see you back here on Thursday for some thoughts on submissions.

 
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Posted by on 11/01/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Trials: Sound Off

12:06 pm, Tuesday, 7 November, 2010 – Atlanta

Today, my post will be short and simple, as is the exercise. Sit for five to ten minutes with your back to an open window. Using only sounds as your clues, describe everything happening outside–don’t be tempted to turn around. Then turn around and add the things you missed, but should have heard. You can change this up, by changing your location. Go into your yard, if you have one, and sit facing the house. Repeat instructions for writing. Or, go to a mall, park, any place you think of with sounds, and sit so you are not watching the scene, and follow the above instructions.

Once you have your piece of prose, then, as with any found piece, pull out the words, images, and phrases you like, decide the story and point of view you want and write a poem. Below I have an example from a former student of mine of everything he heard when he tried the exercise. I find it amazing the detail when the other senses are shunted to the side and we concentrate on one specific sense.

“I sit outside on a warm, muggy night with my back turned to my backyard with the palm trees and the tropical ferns and I hear the chirping of crickets as they increase in volume in their periodic intervals, mixed in with the soft singing of  birds, each with their independent song they sing, disembodied voices in the trees. With a small gust of wind the leaves rustle creating a bass for the song of the birds and crickets. I can hear the dull hum from the pool filter while it extracts the bacteria and dirt from my swimming pool. I faintly hear the low roar of a jet, growing louder and blocking out the rest of the sounds as it flies overhead and soon fades, until my surroundings are all I can hear.

In the distance, I hear the first mosque, with its own beauty, beginning the evening call. The mosque call is something I have always found comforting; as something I have grown up with it represents home and comfort. I hear the small sewage stream as it trickles through the neighborhood, louder after the afternoon rain. From beyond my walls I hear children from the surrounding neighborhoods, playing and shouting as they run through the alleys. A second mosque in the distance begins its call to prayer for another neighborhood, sounding identical to the one near me. Occasionally, a rooster calls out and overpowers all other sounds.

From directly behind my wall I hear women chatting, probably about what they are preparing for dinner, or gossiping about local events. I can hear men laughing and joking loudly, as they sit and smoke their Dji Sam Soe cigarettes. A motorcycle abruptly starts up puttering loudly to life, moves off slowly and fades out leaving the children, the women, the crickets, the birds, the mosque and the pool filter behind, in this small world of mine.”

Tomorrow, bonus! There is a Part 2, using sound as inspiration.

 

 
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Posted by on 07/12/2010 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Thursday Takeaway

10:28, Thursday [again? already?], 2 December, 2010 – Atlanta

Today is a gentle day. I shall share three examples of imagery that I love and that will do us. I figure you will appreciate the chance to have a break in things to think about and do, from me, as, if you are like me, you follow and check on several sites.

First though, a little theory [okay, I lied. I am asking your brain to exert a few cells.]. It is useful for your own poetry, especially if you do not have an ear, to know the effect of different letters:

SOUND COLOR:

RESONANCE n, m, ng, z, zh lingering,droning, vibrant effects

HARSHNESS k, g, hard c throaty sounds, for dissonance and cacophony

PLOSIVENESS b, p, t, d, g, k, percussive sounds

For more on sound, there is an excellent essay by C. John Holcombe, on sound patterning, if you wish to read more.

The first example of using how words sound, as well as sound imagery, is a poem by William Carlos Williams, “The Dance,” based on Brueghel’s painting.

The Dance

In Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess.

Read the poem aloud. Your mouth will move, as the words, and the dancers do, around, with the broad ou, the repeated b sounds, and the sw sound. Besides using the sound of words, we find onomatopoeia, and internal rhyme. I find it hard not to move with the poem as I read it.

The second poem is “The Bells,” by Edgar Allen Poe. I will give you one stanza and point you to the rest of the poem.

The Bells

Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Look  how many times Poe uses the letter i with its tighter sound, to reflect the silvery metal of the bells. Each of the other stanzas reflect a different metal and with each Poe changes the vowels he uses, to reflect the metal.

The last excerpt employs sensory imagery that made me fall in love with the poem. The poem is T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes

The winter evening settles down

by poppy's_baby

With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

Count how many images are in the stanza and how many of those are sound. You should also find visual, taste, smell and touch. We will come back to this stanza later when we talk about punctuation [yep] and enjambment.

Tomorrow: freeforall day. See you there.

 
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Posted by on 02/12/2010 in poetry, writing

 

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Wednesday Writing Sound, Part 2

12:13 pm, Wednesday, 1 December, 2010 – Atlanta

 

Happy 1st of the last month.

Hear the crackle?

Now, sound. I am going to mix in the other senses for today. Yesterday you played a little with the way words sound. Today I want you to pick pairs of emotion and list for each what you associate with them sensorily. List as many for sound as you can, but jot a couple for each of the other senses. You may, as you jot down the associations, expand on any of them that come with a story.

Hear the clickety-clackety?

happiness:

sound   bells, ululating, song, singing, ocean waves
visual   yellow, neon lights, fireworks, dancing
taste    coffee, muscat, fried eggs and bacon
smell    coffee, bacon, fresh mown grass
touch   satin, a hug, marble

sadness:

Hear the whine?

sound:   sobs, taps being played, solitary footsteps
visual:   grey skies, shadows
taste:    blood, salt, bitterness
smell:   rotting oranges, mold, stale food
touch:  tears, bare branch

Notice that some of my associations are universal, but some are personal and if I were to use them in a poem to evoke an emotion, I would need to give a context. I found a site where the author has done the same thing, but she has added kinesthesia. She also has some good things to say, so the link is here.

Tomorrow, I will share with you some excerpts from poets who are experts with both the sounds of words and sound imagery.

 
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Posted by on 01/12/2010 in poetry, writing

 

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