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 marks my fiftieth year in AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Alvin chapter was begun in 1947, and as a new, green teacher to Alvin Independent School District, I joined in 1968. In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015. Eventually Powerful Women Readers folded as an on-line book club, but I kept the title and turned it into a blog. (See "Introduction,"first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 28th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

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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