Today I sauntered over to Poets.org‘s front page in search of an interesting poem spark. Given that I’ve been writing these things for a few years now, the well of inspiration is remarkably still flowing; I easily found this week’s spark: write a poem based on music.
The front page showed me this as soon as I clicked in: The Music Lover’s Poetry Anthology. Ah-ha! What a great idea! I’m always listening to something or other: classical, jazz, rock, hip-hop; it should be easy to find some piece of music that gives me a spark for a poem. I can use the song title as a start, or steal some of the lyrics (one of my favorite things to do). I could base the poem’s rhythm on the beat of the song or choose a more syllabic approach based on some arbitrary snippet (perhaps the song track number). The possibilities are endless.
Poetry and music have a long romance going on, as you must surely know. It began way back before the written word was ever put down on stone and continues to this day. There are countless examples of jazz poetry, as detailed in this essay by Sean Singer: Scrapple from the Apple: Jazz & Poetry. How about this famous Langston Hughes poem: The Weary Blues?
Then there are the poems written about music, like this one from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Musical Instrument. And lest you think this romance only flows in one direction, here is an example of how music can flow from the study of poetry: David Berman: Poems, Songs, and Psychedelic Soap Operas and David Broza: Making the Music the Poem Wants.
We must also not forget about those brilliant poets/songwriters: Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, not to mention the many modern rockers who continue the tradition.
It seems that music and poetry are everywhere. So, go forth and write a poem, keeping in mind this one warning from Yusef Komunyakaa (from the article Yusef Komunyakaa: An Argument Against Simplicity):
|Music provides Komunyakaa with a means to explore complex issues of race and human relationships, while never reducing it through an attempt to reproduce the sounds themselves. “I gave myself a line of instruction a few years ago: ‘I am not a horn,'” he explained. “It troubles me when poetry tries to equal music through outlandish mimicry of musical instruments. It is not music or poetry.”|
PS-don’t forget to include the music that inspired your poem.
You will see it’s a little difficult to include all the music that inspired this poem:Lyric & Bluesbut it obviously includes Billie Holiday and Big Mama Thornton, along with half the upstairs section at my favorite music store, Music Millenium.Also I had some thoughts on the subject here
Another great anthology — Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry.
Tiel, thanks for the link. I haven’t had time yet to read your entire article, but I’ve got it bookmarked. :-)Karen, cool! I haven’t heard of that one. Thanks.