Monday Musings

Today’s musings are on the sound of poetry.  It was brought about when a new friend shared some of her “trivial” (her words) poetry which has definite appeal because of her mastery of using sound(s) to create poetic images and fun.

Taking a “sound check” of a poem may be a valuable exercise when evaluating poetry. A poem’s meaning is often conveyed by the sound of the words, simply as sounds, which eventually imbues and enhances the lines and phrases with meaning. For example, words that begin with the “bl” sound, swollen and bloated: blimp, blurb, blubber,  balloon.  Words that begin with “sn” have a certain sneakiness to them: snide, sneer, snake, snarl.  Certain vowel sounds convey brightness, where others are “dark.” Some consonants are harsh, where others seem “tender.” Onomatopoetic words  are words that carry meaning through sound like “buzz”, “whizz”, “bam!” In addition to these words and sounds that convey meaning directly through sound, others suggest meanings by association.

“Content is grey/And sleepiness too./They wear grey suede gloves/When touching you…”The phrase ” “grey suede gloves” sounds like the tactile experience one would have if grey suede glove-covered fingers were to touch or stroke his/her skin.  In the lines, “The sound of black is/Boom! Boom! Boom!/Echoing in/An empty room,” the repeated Booms! have an echo-like quality that is expressed through the repetition of the double o sound and is easy to imagine in a darkened, empty room.  It has a hollowness and eeriness that one would experience in such a setting. These lines are from a children’s book of poetry titled Hailstones and Halibut Bones, one which has inspired every group of poets I’ve ever worked with, regardless of their age.

Sometimes jump rope rhymes and chanting games are so much fun simply because they sound like fun. Sometimes the beauty of poetry and the conveyance of a poem’s meaning has its origin in the sounds of words and phrases. I will be happy to tell my new friend that her poetry is not trivial at all, but conveys her emotion and meaning through the use of sounds.

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

2 thoughts on “Monday Musings”

  1. An excellent article, Rae. We are also in the territory here of sound symbolism, aren’t we? Where families of words – such as the ‘fl’ denoting speed and fluidity and the ‘gl’ cluster of words meaning shiny – glow, glint, glisten, etc… I always find this area of English fascinating:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like the lady who “could have danced all night…”, I could have gone on and on, but I took pity on my readers. Ha! I hope next Monday to do some thinking about structure, now that I’ve mentioned sound. What little I know about poetry never ceases to fascinate me and give me plenty of material to muse upon. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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