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The Sound of Poetry


A particular chord of music, the ambiance of a familiar place, the sound of someone’s voice; there are plenty of ways that sounds can evoke particular memories or feelings in a person. Sound enhances the way we experience certain places and events, and it can offer a more complete picture of an image. Poetry, as a written medium, does not naturally include sound unless it is accompanied by another piece, but poetry can certainly suggest sound. Whether it’s natural or manmade, literal or imagined, sound in poetry evokes feeling and understanding that other sensory images cannot accomplish. The purpose of this anthology is to guide the reader through a selection of sounds described in poetry from through the years and around the world. These selections will begin with the loudest sounds, like a thunderstorm, and they will end in silence. Even our title page, featuring the word Decrescendo, suggests that this collection will focus more on what is heard than what is actually seen on these pages. The overall topic of sound is general enough that we have found poems with a range of moods and styles because the nature of whether a sound is pleasant or not is in the eye, or rather the ear, of the beholder. The written poems help guide the audience through the sounds being experienced, but these poems do demand participation in order to complete the images. Through our anthology, the reader will be exposed to the ways that sound is expressed and used by a variety of poets. Take a look, and see what you hear.


Crystal Moment by Robert Peter Tristram Coffin Once or twice this side of death Things can make one hold his breath. From my boyhood I remember A crystal moment of September. A wooded island rang with sounds Of church bells in the throats of hounds. A buck leaped out and took the tide With jewels flowing past each side. With his head high like a tree He swam within a yard of me. I saw the golden drop of light In his eyes turned dark with fright. I saw the forest's holiness On him like a fierce caress. Fear made him lovely past belief, My heart was trembling like a leaf. He leans towards the land and life With need above him like a knife. In his wake the hot hounds churned They stretched their muzzles out and yearned. They bayed no more, but swam and throbbed Hunger drove them till they sobbed. Pursued, pursuers reached the shore And vanished. I saw nothing more. So they passed, a pageant such As only gods could witness much, Life and death upon one tether And running beautiful together.

One reason that I really liked this poem is the beautiful imagery that it describes. I like how the poem glorifies nature and uses sensory details in order to bring the reader into the right mindset. A couple examples of the sensory details are mainly how he describes the forest as ringing with sounds like church bells, which is such a universally beautiful sound. The contrasting image to the beautiful sounds of course are that it is coming from the throats of hounds which isn’t something usually described as beautiful. Because this is however, a natural ebb and flow relationship between the buck and the hounds, it is still looked at by the narrator as beautiful.


The Voice BY Thomas hardy Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me, Saying that now you are not as you were When you had changed from the one who was all to me, But as at first, when our day was fair. Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then, Standing as when I drew near to the town Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then, Even to the original air-blue gown! Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness Travelling across the wet mead to me here, You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness, Heard no more again far or near? Thus I; faltering forward, Leaves around me falling, Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward, And the woman calling.

In this poem I really like how there is a distinct line between the power of seeing and the power of hearing someone. The speaker hears what he thinks is his past lovers voice, or so it seems, but doesn’t see her and mistakes her the sound of the breeze and nature for her calling out to him. This is a really beautiful comparison to make because when you have lost love you want so badly to believe that those sounds you here are the one you want. The poem leaves the reader in question and doesn’t tell whoever is reading if the voice was in fact the mans love, or just the wind and leaves playing a trick on him.


In Muted Tone BY PAUL VERLAINE TRANSLATED BY NORMAN R. SHAPIRO Gently, let us steep our love In the silence deep, as thus, Branches arching high above Twine their shadows over us. Let us blend our souls as one, Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies, Evergreen, in unison With the pines’ vague lethargies. Dim your eyes and, heart at rest, Freed from all futile endeavor, Arms crossed on your slumbering breast, Banish vain desire forever. Let us yield then, you and I, To the waftings, calm and sweet, As their breeze-blown lullaby Sways the gold grass at your feet. And, when night begins to fall From the black oaks, darkening, In the nightingale’s soft call Our despair will, solemn, sing.

I really enjoy this poem because it emphasizes the unique beauty in the sound of silence. Instead of focusing on more harsh sounding things, the author talks about a deep silence accompanied by a breeze-blown lullaby. This solmn song talked about is used describe the beauty of love as it is unnoticeable to those on the outside but the silent beauty is enough to be there for those in love. The beautiful silence and lullabies are noticed by those described in the poem, and are used to banish vain desire, while the soft call of the nightingales is alone the despair in the love, such a soft sound and yet the beautiful combination of the sound and absence of sound are both hushed, which is why the poem is in muted tone.


East River’s Charm BY SAMUEL GREENBERG Is this the river East I heard?— Where the ferries, tugs and sailboats stirred And the reaching wharves from the inner land Outstretched, like the harmless receiving hand— And the silvery tinge that sparkles aloud Like the brilliant white demons, which a tide has towed From the rays of the morning sun Which it doth ceaselessly shine upon. But look at the depth of the drippling tide The dripples, reripples like the locusts astride; As the boat turns upon the silvery spread It leaves—strange—a shadow dead. And the very charms from the reflective river And from the stacks of the floating boat— There seemeth the quality ne’er to dissever Like the ruffles from the mystified smoke.

I really thought that this poem was interesting because it focused on the sounds of the words and smooth syllables like f’s and s’s. This poem is about a river and uses a swaying and sort of smooth type of language to transport the reader with their senses. In a way the author is describing how the river sounds by using the words like, dripples, and reripples. The river is also describes as having ruffles from the mystified smoke which is a kind of silent type of cascading that is incredible beautiful. Samuel Greenberg also uses repetition of consonants as a type of alliteration such as, reflective river, and floating boat, even mystified smoke has a sort of rhymey feel!


Bibliography • Peterson, Houston, comp. Poet to Poet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. • "Calloipe Muse." Ingenuity Acoustics. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. <http://ingenuityacoustics.com/calloipe.html>. Picture used with, "Ode X: To the Muse" • Hodnett, Edward, comp. Poems to Read Aloud. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. • Zerbetz, Evon. "Ocean Music." Annie Kaill's. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. <http://www.anniekaills.com/art/zerbetz/prints5.htm>. Picture used with, "Stanzas for Music” • Patchen, Kenneth. Collected Poems: Kenneth Patchen. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. • "When the Road Meets the Sky." Good Wallpapers. Union D, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. <http://goodwallpapers.com/nature/8490>. Picture used with, "How Silent are the Things of Heaven” • LEE, PETER H., trans. ANTHOLOGY OF KOREAN POETRY. New York: JOHN DAY, 1964. Print. • Kelly, Joseph, and Galway Kinnell. The Seagull Reader. [S.l.]: Norton, W.W., and, n.d. Print. • Kelly, Joseph, and Langston Hughes. The Seagull Reader. [S.l.]: Norton, W.W., and, n.d. Print.

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