Day 5: The song in your head

Today’s exercise is based on Sandra Soli’s “Let There Be Music” exercise in Wingbeats II and also a workshop I took with Dorianne Laux.

If the poem you’re writing or revising had a song to match, what song would that be? What song do you want it to be?

Choose a song–or a poem–and then write or revise the poem to match the song’s rhythms. For example, if you were to write a song to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which begins

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?

the rhythm would go something like this:

da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum
da-Dum da-Dum da-da-Dum da-Dum
da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum Dum…

Think stressed and unstressed syllables as musical notes–half notes and whole notes, syncopation. What sounds work best for them?

How can you mirror the song’s voice in your poem?

This gives you a constraint and a sort of template, and it can push you into new territory. Fair warning, though: it isn’t as easy as it sounds–especially if you choose to use a poem as a rhythm source. So don’t stress out. Just have fun with it and enjoy the music. If you get stuck in the poem that you’ve been working on, use that same source song or poem to write a new poem.

When you’re done, read your poem out loud to see how well it fits the song–and vice versa.