I’ll confess; in a prioritized list of all the things which swirl in my mind as I compose poetic lines, sonic qualities are typically near the bottom. It’s not that I believe there is no value to sound in poetry, which would undoubtedly be a form of blasphemy, it’s more just a product of the way my writing brain works and exists. Semantics are my focus. I tend to think chiefly in terms of conveying particular meanings, a concentration which keeps much of my thought processes entirely detached from the sonic nature of the words I choose. My recent transition to poetry workshops has certainly prompted a reevaluation of this method, yet its remnants still form an operational basis for most of the things I put on the page.
That isn’t to say I pay sounds no heed whatsoever, though, for I do tend to count syllables, or capitalize on alliterative opportunities in the poems I heavily revise. I’m a frequent user of thesaurus.com, and lately, I’ve been turning to it much more for the purposes of alliteration or assonance. Sometimes I just know a line could read better, it could have just a little more cohesion. I don’t right know how to pin down this tactic, but it takes me to another point: I have come to believe that a “default poetic state” lives within me, one which would endlessly write cheesy limericks were I not present to rein it in. For an example, I often find myself reading a poetic line at a very particular pace, while my mind races to fill syllabic gaps in order to better construct a rhyming couplet. However, it’s a habit I consciously suppress, for I always hate the way these lines read once they are completed; campy, overdone, and cheap. I can’t say how many times I’ve completely deleted a document’s contents due to this phenomena.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to delete these documents. Why couldn’t I try for the opposite, to channel this cheesiness into a poem focused primarily on its sonic construction and rhyme scheme? It would definitely take me out of my comfort zone, yet I’d be very hesitant to let someone else read something which I myself hate… At any rate, even after a single week’s worth of readings I feel I am coming to realize the potential of sonic qualities to affect a poem’s semantics, a revelation which may prove to be paradigm-shifting for my habits. As a writer, I am always eager to attempt putting more precision and thought into my work, and sound looks to be as worthy a focus as any.