I’m scheduled for a poetry reading at the I AM Yoga, Art, and Music Festival in Bixby, OK on Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 4:00pm in the “acoustic corner.” The festival starts on Friday at 5:00pm and goes through Saturday at 11:00pm. I think it’ll be a fun event, so please come hear my poetry and stick around for all the other goings on. For more details, see their Facebook page or website.
Open Stage Tulsa is a little different than most open mic events in Tulsa. It isn’t tied to one location, and the sets are 30 minutes, instead of the typical 10-15. The next one is at Crystal Pistol Saloon in downtown Tulsa’s Brady Arts District on Monday, July 11, 2011 at 8pm. I’m on the schedule for 9:30pm, but come early; sometimes the schedule runs early due to some acts not lasting their full alloted time.
By the way, I have new poems.
Note: Venue is 21+
Do you listen to music while you write? While you edit?
I don’t while writing, unless I’m writing in a public place where it just happens to be playing. When I write at home, I either sit musicless on the front porch or at my writing desk. The porch and desk are environments where music distracts me. I start to sing along or dance or lose my words in the lyrics. There’s something different about writing in public, though. I’m one of those writers who sits in corner of the cafe and scribbles notes about the people around me. In that setting, music is part of the experience, along with voices and the espresso machine.
But music doesn’t usually distract me while editing, no matter the setting. Right now, I’m editing an essay for my Advanced Comp II class and enjoying the Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication album (on vinyl, of course). Am I rapping along? Some. Am I dancing in my chair? Definitely. Is the badass music video for “Sabotage” playing in my mind’s eye? Hell yeah! But I don’t feel distracted like I would if I were composing a first draft with these beats. I feel like the music gives me a sort of mental release that frees up my mind to edit better.
Well, I’m going to go flip the LP and get back to my essay.
I’m very excited to announce that I am the feature poet at tomorrow’s Night of Hope and Healing at Emmaus Road Church. The event will have music by local artists Chris McLeod, Leah Hugon, and David Christopher, poetry by yours truly, and an open mic session for people who want to share poems, songs, and stories about what they’ve overcome.
As for my part, I’ll be reading a mix of old and new poems. I’d love to see you there.
Night of Hope & Healing
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Emmaus Road Church
1609 S Boston Ave
Tulsa, OK 74119
Correction: I had the time as 8pm, but it starts at 7pm.
The ticktickticktick staccato of sleet on my roof last night got me thinking about sounds in writing. Writing that appeals to all five senses has potential to reach readers better than single-sense writing in many cases. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for works that focus on one or two senses or three senses, but don’t miss out on the full array of senses just out of laziness.
Using multiple senses is not just for creative writing. Obviously journalism uses multiple senses, but it can also be useful in academic writing (when appropriate in your discipline).
So what is onomatopoeia? Other than a word I always have to look up the spelling for, an onomatopoeia is a word that represents a sound. There’s a large vocabulary of standard onomatopoeia that we share in our culture. Just pick up a children’s book, and you’ll see them–chirp chirp ruff ruff moo moo ribbit ribbit. Sometimes these are good enough. Since they are parts of a shared vocabulary, we can often overlook that they aren’t always accurate representations for sound and mentally produce the correct sound.
But sometimes the best course is to create your own onomatopoeia. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The one in the first sentence of this post isn’t. I just said that sleet makes a tick sound on my roof. It’s a quick, assertive, repeated sound, so I put a few ticks together and added that it had a staccato rhythm.
Though it isn’t necessarily complicated, it does help to practice. I like to sit somewhere with my eyes closed for a few minutes then write about all the sounds I heard.
The following is an excerpt from a poem I wrote called “Louis Armstrong on His Bicycle.” The poem describes a homeless man who is sitting on bicycle outside of an Italian restaurant and starts “singing” along with the live Jazz music that can be heard on the patio.
Live Jazz pours out of the Italian place
onto the patio
where he now leans his bike.
The smoky beat fills him.
He belts out
in that throatysmooth voice
Ba ba da de doo
Ba ba da de dum
Have fun exploring the use of sounds in your writing. And we’ll all practice spelling onomatopoeia, in case it shows up in a New York Times crossword puzzle.
Sometimes to my wife’s chagrin, I have eclectic taste in music. She rolls her eyes when I listen to country or rap music… As a poet, I feel this wide range of music is beneficial to my writing because music and poetry are closely related artistic expressions. Listening to different styles of music helps me get a better feel for how to use rhythm in my writing.
Rhythm is important, not just as a requirement for a collection of words to be called poetry, but as a tool in that poetry. The rhythm controls the pace, the emotion, the sound, the feel of a poem.
Though I read and listen to a lot of poetry, sometimes it helps me to listen to the more obvious beats of music. The train of Johnny Cash trudging by Folsom Prison. The slow, drawn out emotion of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The upbeat (in tempo and emotion) sounds of the Black Eyed Peas.
Songs that employ changing rhythms are particularly interesting. Sometimes rhythm changes as emotion or content changes, and mastering this is good for poetry. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and “Load Out” by Jackson Browne are good examples.
All of this music derives meaning through both rhythm and content. Just like poetry.
p.s. My wife’s blog is right here. She posts amazing vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free recipes.