The Sounds Poems Make

smv280x150When learning poetry, one learns the different forms of poetry along with a particular culture or history. They are a part of literature, such as meter and rhyme, and of the assumption that poetry is mastery of the language. As for lyrics, the average person understands the language used. In my opinion, if songwriters don’t choose words well, the song can fail miserably. But many poets have influenced musicians, and in doing so, they have created music and applied it to poetry.

In the early 2000’s, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd put William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” to his own musical interpretation. Now I never was a fan of Pink Floyd, but I love what Gilmore did with the sonnet. The lines are broken with dramatic pause, and the melody sounds reflective.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Natalie Merchant, one of my favorite singers, got me through the tough times of adolescence and young adulthood. She devoted an album, Leave Your Sleep, to a collection of American and British poetry joined to music. When I was living in Chicago, I had the opportunity to see her perform this album. She got the idea after reading nursery rhymes to her daughter. One of her musical inspirations for the nursery rhymes was that of Nathalia Crane. At the age of ten, Nathalia published a book of poetry, The Janitor’s Boy. They dubbed her “The Brooklyn Bard.” The bluesy music fits well with the poem.

Oh I’m in love with the janitor’s boy,
And the janitor’s boy loves me;
He’s going to hunt for a desert isle
In our geography.

A desert isle with spicy trees
Somewhere near Sheepshead bay;
A right nice place, just fit for two
Where we can live alway.

Oh I’m in love with the janitor’s boy
He’s busy as he can be;
And down in the cellar he’s making a raft
Out of an old settee.

He’ll carry me off, I know that he will,
For his hair is exceedingly red;
And the only thing that occurs to me
Is to dutifully shiver in bed.

The day that we sail, I shall leave this brief note,
For my parents I hate to annoy:
“I have flown away to an isle in the bay
With the janitor’s red-haired boy.

Because I think Natalie Merchant is incredibly talented, I thought I’d share another poem from Leave Your Sleep. This one is by Ogden Nash, Adventures of Isabel. Known for light verse, he wrote rhymed poetry in unconventional lines, different length and uneven meter.

Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.
Once in a night as black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
the witch’s face was cross and wrinkled,
The witch’s gums with teeth were sprinkled.
Ho, ho, Isabel! the old witch crowed,
I’ll turn you into an ugly toad!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry,
She showed no rage and she showed no rancor,
But she turned the witch into milk and drank her.
Isabel met a hideous giant,
Isabel continued self reliant.
The giant was hairy, the giant was horrid,
He had one eye in the middle of his forhead.
Good morning, Isabel, the giant said,
I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She nibled the zwieback that she always fed off,
And when it was gone, she cut the giant’s head off.
Isabel met a troublesome doctor,
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor’s satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
Swallow this, it will make you well.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concocter,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.

And to end my poetry/lyrical fun, I have to add another favorite singer of mine, Stevie Nicks. On her 2011 album In Your Dreams, she recorded Edgar Allan Poe’s last completed poem, Annabel Lee.

Verse and Music,
Baer Necessities

4 thoughts on “The Sounds Poems Make”

  1. Thanks for sharing the videos. I really enjoyed Stevie Nick’s version of Annabelle Lee. You might like Loreena McKennit’s song recording of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.” Good stuff!

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