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I could have started this prompt with that well known Shakespearean quote (You know the one right?)…but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

For this week’s poetics I’d like to focus on a subject very close to my heart… that of music.

For me, music is perhaps one of the deepest and most resonate forms of human expression. Not only does it contain the ‘POETIC’ element in terms of lyricism, but there is something else, something intangible and something profoundly emotional.

Pablo Picasso- ‘The Old Guitarist’ 1903 Public Domain Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Music can contain passion. It can be definitive in terms of culture. It can be used as vehicle for self-belonging, act as a signpost, a reminder of our pasts (albeit bad or good), it can be an emotional crutch, it can be an all-encompassing representation of the human spirit, our lives, our loves, and our thoughts…OR… it can simply be a collection of noises and notes that we do or don’t respond to.

Throughout history music has always been a subject of artistic concentration. Take for example Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Old Guitarist’ 1903. The main theme of this picture, painted in Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’, shows a man seemingly clinging on to life, maybe even in misery or loneliness. The guitar itself becomes the focal point of the picture and becomes the old man’s only focus, his love; purpose and his only means of expression. Poetically, maybe this picture speaks of our need as artists, to simply express and that expression sits at our very core.

Music has also proven to be a dominant image within the photographic arts. Here, I’d like to draw your attention to the photographs of Glen E. Friedman (a personal favourite of mine) who has captured the passion, the fury, and the intensity of the Punk Rock/Hip Hop scenes across the word, but particularly in the US.

Photograph of Fugazi courtesy of Glenn E Friedman www.burningflags.com/books

Here the image shows the intensity of the artists, the energy of the stage, and the closeness between the performers and the observers. The photograph can be seen as a metaphor for some of the ideologies of music (and particularly within punk rock subculture) – with the absence of a barrier between the stage and the crowd showing music’s transcendence, its ability to be owned and shared by ALL; its lack of hierarchy and therefore a common shared value – very much like some of the messages and ideologies contained within Poetry (which in itself could be regarded as a subculture)

And finally lets us observe a more ‘poetic’ relationship. For this example I’d like to present a poem by Anne Sexton (1928-1974)

‘Music Swims Back to Me’

Wait Mister. Which way is home?
They turned the light out
and the dark is moving in the corner.
There are no sign posts in this room,
four ladies, over eighty,
in diapers every one of them.
La la la, Oh music swims back to me
and I can feel the tune they played
the night they left me
in this private institution on a hill.

Imagine it. A radio playing
and everyone here was crazy.
I liked it and danced in a circle.
Music pours over the sense
and in a funny way
music sees more than I.
I mean it remembers better;
remembers the first night here.
It was the strangled cold of November;
even the stars were strapped in the sky
and that moon too bright
forking through the bars to stick me
with a singing in the head.
I have forgotten all the rest.

They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
and there are no signs to tell the way,
just the radio beating to itself
and the song that remembers
more than I. Oh, la la la,
this music swims back to me.
The night I came I danced a circle
and was not afraid.

Here Sexton presents us with music as a reminder; a constant in a mad world (Sexton often wrote about her struggles with mental illness, often spending time in hospital herself). Observe the lines- ‘Music pours over the sense/and in a funny way/music sees more than I’.  Here she talks about the music seeing all of her surroundings, the other patients, the nurses, the moon in the sky, even herself, and is very much used as a constant to anchor all of these things together.

I would urge you all to check out the respective artists above if you haven’t already!

OK, let’s get to it!

For this week’s prompt write a poem about music. Please feel free to interpret it as openly as you like.

You could write a piece about your favourite song (and how it makes you feel), a particular style of music, an instrument, a time and place that you remember through a certain piece of music, why music is important to you, or simply how music makes you feel in general…this is WIDE open….

SO- let’s go for it…let’s build our OWN poetics jukebox.

Here’s how it works

  • Write a poem and post it to your blog
  • Click the Mr. Linky button below, and in the new window that opens up input your name and direct URL of the poem
  • Visit other people’s poems and comment to let them know that poems are being read!
  • Feel free to share via your favourite social media!
  • Above all- have fun,

See you out on the road.

By Stuart McPherson (www.poemsofhateandhope.com)