Friday, March 22, 2024

Coaxing Poems 8: Tap it Out

Sweet greetings to you, my Poem Friends! Welcome to the eighth of ten poetry video visits here at The Poem Farm. In each of these short clips, I will share a small something about poetry, and you will always be able to find the poem(s) I read below the video. If you wish, you may watch the earlier videos linked below:


And now I am pleased to share Visit 8: Tap it Out:

Students - While most of this series has focused on meaning making in our poems, today's visit centers on sound. The sound of a beat, the tapping, the rhythm in our blood as we read and dance and move to a poem or song.

Spring Lions
by Amy LV

I love playing with meter, rhythm, and beat. One way I do this is by borrowing the meter of another poem or song and bringing my own ideas to it. Sometimes, when my writing is finished, I'll sing it...and sometimes I will just leave my lines as a poem, and no one will ever know that it is singable.

When I do this, I usually write out the poem or song that I am using as my "meter model," and count the syllables for each line, noting the number at the beginning or ending of each line. Then, this guides me in the writing of my own verse. Sometimes I copy the numbers down on a new blank page, right at the ends of where my own lines will go to help me write each line in the same rhythm as my model.

Then, as I write, line-by-line, I tap my fingers on the table or my shoulder and if my model is a song, I sing my poem to see if my words and syllables (and stresses, or the stronger or emphasized syllables) sound right.

On my notebook pages below, you can see where I have writen out a few little well-known tunes and their syllable counts.

Counting Song Syllables
Photo by Amy LV

You can try this same thing. It helps to start with a simple tune, matching each line of what you write to the sound of the tune you choose. It may even help to write your first meter-model poem together with a class, clapping and tapping syllables together. It can take a little while to get used to doing this, but once you start, you will find yourself tapping everywhere!

I often think about how wonderful it would be to be a musician and to invent new song rhythms, singing them along with new words, and I have been fortunate to have some friends who do this. Some of you have heard songs by my friends Barry Lane and Gart Westerhouse. These musicians write their own material and sometimes set the words of others to music too. It is an honor for me when they write music to my words, and in a way, it's the inside out process of what I do when I set poems to others' music. Here are a couple of pieces for you to enjoy by these friends. I share them with my gratitude to Gart and Barry:

Barry Lane sings THE SOUND OF KINDNESS, my latest book.

Gart Westerhouse plays piano and sings "In the Dark of Morning," a free verse poem shared here at The Poem Farm.

For those of you who are interested in music, you may wish to do this yourself - find some words (by you or another) and make a tune to go with them. If you play an instrument, experiment with bringing your instrument into the party too.

Thank you to Truman Elementary in Lackawanna, NY and Lindbergh Elementary in Kenmore, NY for the lovely visits this month. I am smiling away over here remembering our time together.

The final two Coaxing Poems videos will be up by month's end as once April begins, I will begin my (as yet unchosen) National Poetry Month Project.

Rose is hosting this week's Poetry Friday over at Imagine the Possibilities with a joyful nod to spring and its birds. Each Friday, all are invited to share poems, poem books, poetry ideas, and friendship in this open and welcoming poetry community.

May you tap your way through the week ahead!



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  1. Amy, Thank you for this entertaining prompt. I've been wanting to do poetry to song all year and haven't yet. I wrote a song for my granddaughter using Joni Mitchell's song "Little Green." I recorded it and put it into a stuffie for baby June. Yesterday I brought a violinist to our school. He played "Happy Birthday" over and over to teach the children about notes, sound, meter, melody, as well as cultural songs we all know. So now you have me thinking about writing a poem to Happy Birthday. I'll let you know how this goes.

  2. Dear Amy, thank you for the fluffy fistful! Lovely. xo

  3. I love "I'm a little Teapot", sang it many times with first graders a long time ago, & now your lesson, & a celebration of spring & daffodils - wonderful, Amy!

  4. Fun to imagine you tap-tap-tapping your fingers through a poem draft! I loved the year you did this for your National Poetry Month project!

  5. I do this all the time when I'm singing to my little grandson - make up words to songs. I never thought about writing them out as poems! Thank you, Amy!

  6. Thank you, Amy! This is such a fun idea! I wrote the text for a board book a while back to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep. Your lion bouquet is wonderful!

  7. This is really fun Amy! I agree with Patricia-- I make up words to song tunes a fair amount, but hadn't really thought of it as a form to try out. Thank you!

  8. Amy, I have been meaning to "borrow a catchy meter" from some source and try writing my own words for some time now. Thank you for your insights on how you go about this! Now I am even more enthused to give it a go!

  9. Amy, what a great teaching on creating new songs and poems with existing rhythms and melodies. Your post and video make them accessible. I loved singing the lion bouquet song!

  10. We did it!