Thursday, March 25, 2021

Poetic Singing

 A new concept for me: the sounds in words can sing like notes on a scale. The idea comes from Gregory Orr's book, A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, which I've been working my way through for a while now. The poem I will share with you today is my response to an exercise from the chapter entitled Singing. There are quite a few rules with this exercise which I found it challenging but interesting. So... here goes...

Write a poem using the following eight words:

  1. Willow (use as a noun)
  2. Swallow (use as either verb or noun)
  3. Lame (adjective)
  4. Disdain (use as either verb or noun)
  5.  Flame (use as either verb or noun)
  6. Green (adjective)
  7. Sway (verb)
  8. Gave (verb)


  • The poem must be ten to twelve lines long
  • You must use all the words
  • You can use them in whatever order you wish
  • You can't use more than one of the listed words in each line, i.e., you must space the designated words throughout the poem -- you can't jam several of them in the same line.
Hint: If you find yourself aware of the sound echoes and effects that these eight words suggest, feel free to use words of your own choosing that continue, or expand on, or play off the sounds you 're responding to in these eight words. Doing so will heighten and possibly alter the sonic texture of your poem.

When the world turns green with a passion

When it bursts into life like a flame

When daffodils sway

On the first balmy day

And the torments of winter grow lame

Then give thanks for the turn of the season

For the swallow designing her nest

For you'll hear no disdain

In a songbird's refrain

And the willow weaves shade for your rest

© Karen Eastlund

I'm interested in Orr's approach to poetry, emphasizing poetry's work of bringing order out of disorder.  I hope you find something of interest in this exercise. I admit that I wonder... would it "sing" more if I had freedom? What do you think?

Poetry Friday is hosted by Susan at Soul Blossom Living.  Be sure to check out everyone's plans for celebrating April as Poetry Month.  Thanks for hosting, Susan!


  1. I am in awe, Karen, & love the way you wove those words into your 'song'. I imagine it would be fun to be a two-person poem, with the 2nd coming in with lines 3 & 4. What a great exercise!

  2. Gregory Orr's book has is full of great prompts. You've done a wonderful job with this one! I love the image of daffodils swaying and the "swallow designing her nest."

  3. Thanks for the prompt, I'm saving it for later, and the book recommendation. I think your poem is lovely. I love "Then give thanks for the turn of the season/ For the swallow designing her nest."

  4. Brava! You did a fantastic job with that prompt. Orr's book sounds fascinating. I've always loved the musicality in words/ lyrical poems.

  5. The book sounds fascinating. I love how your poem turned out!

  6. Wow! As I was reading the rules for the challenge I wondered how anyone could keep them all straight and write a poem. Then I read your poem, and it sings beautifully.

  7. Karen I like the way you have responded to the various requirements of this poetic structure. As poets we frequently find ourselves rising to such challenges. Love the closing line which is like a ribbon around a gift.

  8. I'm singing your praises, Karen. Despite all of the constraints, you nailed it!

  9. Love this, Karen. I am going to try the process.