Starting at the beginning: Shakespeare’s sonnet VIII


Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
   Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
   Sings this to thee: ‘Thou single wilt prove none.’


Well tuned sounds for a poem are needed! I have been thinking about how poetry and music are interrelated, in terms of sound making. I’m now on Seamus Heaney’s essay, The Makings of a Music, so if your mind needs something to think about here is a quote:

The given line, the phrase or cadence which haunts the ear and eager parts of the mind, this is the tuning fork to which the whole music of the poem is orchestrated, that out of which the overall melodies are worked for or calculated.

Most of the books I’ve read called such titles as: Poetry, the basics, How to make a poem, etc begin with a comparison between music and poem making.

I originally wanted to do something quite obvious with this idea, so I wrote this scrap of a poem:


I want to know the chanting of pianos

The weakness of bent knees,

The guidance of a pedal and chords

Fresh tunes under my hands.


I take the waste of my fingers

Their touch, to the bed of keys.

Afterwards, the fingertip throb,

My dreams of scales.


Which, now that I re-read it, actually sounds slightly like I want to sleep with a piano. Anyway… I am now thinking about poetry forms and how they might echo a song’s techniques, for example the pattern of a sestina has a musical quality to it, a canzone literally translates as ‘song’ in Italian. Both these forms are built on strict repetition. Rap lyrics and song lyrics have refrains, and this brings us back to the phrase or cadence which is our tuning fork for a poem.


The Stirred quad is formed of Rebecca Audra Smith, Anna Percy, Jasmine Chatfield and Lenni Sanders.

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Posted in BeccaAudra, Poetry Scrawls

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The Stirred team at Reclaim the Night Manchester 2015
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