Forming Melodies With Words

A couple weeks ago, I asked Lytton about how to concisely produce sound in poetry and his advice garnered an intimate approximation to the words that you choose and how they relate to one another in a line. He referred me to Gary Lutz’s “The Sentence is a Lonely Place,” where this relationship between words in a sentence, a line in poetry, is examined. To use Lutz’ own words, “the words have to lean on each other, rub elbows, rub off on each other, feel each other up.” In the process, a sort of sensual relationship between the words is formed and they fit into each other, almost as if they originally belonged together. Lutz argued that a writer must work and rework a sentence so that the outcome produces “a series of departures from what you may have intended to express; a language may start taking on, as they say, a life of its own, a life that contests or trumps the life you had sponsored to live on the page.” And in saying this, Lutz breathes life into a sentence/line/whatever partnering of words you compose like a trumpeter exerts his last aching breath to produce its echoing resonance.

In reading this paper, I began to visualize myself as the writer that I have always been – knit-picky about the words that flow out onto the pages in my stories, and now in my poems. My initial hesitation was considering myself a musician. I had always been terrible at choosing words that went together like a melody. Spoken word did not flow from the tip of my tongue like it would a rapper. In fact, I remember freestyling with my brother as a kid and completely sucking. But Lutz changes what I believed at my core and challenges what it means to be a conventional writer when he resuscitates the heart of a melodist and equates it with the heart of a writer: “In the mouth and in the mind it is three-dimensional, and there are parts that shoot out from it or sink into its syntactic surround.” Here is where I found my sound.

Hopefully, those reading will look up the essay I’ve read and learn a thing or two about the art of making sound beautiful.  

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