Tuesday Trials: Sound Off

07 Dec

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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