Poem Tryouts — Listen Up: Can You Hear That?

30 Jul

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:


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


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.


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


Tags: , , , , , ,

34 responses to “Poem Tryouts — Listen Up: Can You Hear That?

  1. leelotchka44

    30/07/2013 at 2:44 pm

    you are a true cornucopia you are

  2. Carol Carlisle

    30/07/2013 at 4:20 pm

    I had already written my first and probably only blues tune ever, this morning, I may go back and try some of your marvelous suggestions to spruce up this spoof

    • margo roby

      30/07/2013 at 4:42 pm

      I look forward to it, Carol. Loving the title.

  3. markwindham

    30/07/2013 at 4:26 pm

    can last weeks count for this one too? Lots of intentional sound play in there… I suppose not.

    • margo roby

      30/07/2013 at 4:41 pm

      I’m just loving this whole new talking to yourself thing, she said, not answering his question as he already had decided.

  4. rosross

    31/07/2013 at 9:51 am

    So much to inspire. Thanks Margo. And yes, ah, the connection which reveals itself as synchronicity…

    • Hannah Gosselin

      31/07/2013 at 7:19 pm

      Hmm…can’t view you Rossross bc of my account? I tried. :)’s

    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 11:03 am

      I’m having the same problem as Hannah. I am told my account is not the registered one for your blog. Given the years! Tell me you haven’t been hacked.

  5. Pamela

    31/07/2013 at 10:50 am

    Hi Margo, how are you? I hope you are having fun. I love this prompt and am going to try to find time to write to it in a couple of days. My summer is incredibly busy this year. I need a vacation, argh…


    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 10:14 am

      This one is going to keep me busy for a while!

  6. julespaige

    31/07/2013 at 1:55 pm

    Oh…so this is what you were talking about…Well I am going to pull a ‘cheat,’ it is/was to the additional Miz Q prompt. Similar words…but a slightly different direction. Ye, Haw!

    Still away. Visited a little town called Berlin, Maryland. Reminded me of Lititz, PA – Much smaller.

    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 10:14 am

      I’m back. You back?

      • julespaige

        06/08/2013 at 10:32 am

        Yup. The question is do we wanna be?
        Sigh… Where did the summer go?

        • margo roby

          06/08/2013 at 10:35 am

          I don’t know but I’m not feeling rested!

          • julespaige

            06/08/2013 at 10:36 am

            Don’t we always need a vacation from our vacations?

            • margo roby

              06/08/2013 at 10:40 am

              Yeh, but this time, I really didn’t get any rest. Mom’s age is beginning to show and I am having a hard time readjusting to the way her brain works now.

              • julespaige

                06/08/2013 at 10:41 am

                I hear you. I’ve got two like that, MIL and Mom.

  7. Hannah Gosselin

    31/07/2013 at 7:02 pm

    Hellooooo!! That was SO much fun! I tried number five…

    Thank you, Margo!! 🙂

    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 9:33 am

      Well, hi there :-D. I am on my way.

    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 9:32 am

      I look forward to seeing what you did, then.

  8. barbara_

    04/08/2013 at 11:38 am

    came back and tried one of the others

  9. markwindham

    04/08/2013 at 5:18 pm

    so…does a lack of sound count? That is where this started as an idea and then it kind of…veered. How surprising.

    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 9:30 am

      Absolutely. You intrigue me. I’m on my way.

  10. Ruth

    04/08/2013 at 7:47 pm

    wonderful writeup for the prompt, Margo, very useful (though don’t expect that necessarily to show up in my offering) 😉

    • margo roby

      06/08/2013 at 9:29 am

      Thank you, Ruth. (you do make me smile)


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