Sometimes we are amazed at how close poetry is to music.

Both arts tells us what to listen for in time.

Music can be explained as simply as this: here is a musical note—and now—listen to this one which follows. What is this? This thing called music? It has its own interest. It is nothing in itself and the composer can even dally behind the listener, so easily does the whole thing move forward entirely on its own.

A.E. Stallings is simply being a musician when she says:

The woes were words, and the only thing left was quiet.

Music vibrates our ears; the effect is involuntary, and poets—the good ones—play music by making the poetry as involuntary as possible.

Which means being as deliberate and definite as possible.

The poet should leave no doubt as to what the tune is; and should not be like an out-of-tune instrument—which is the most unpleasant thing it is possible to hear.

The poet should not waffle.

“The woes were words.”

The absolute equivalence makes a lovely sound. Woes, words. Got it. And now we are ready for: “and the only thing left was quiet.”

So there are no more words, Stallings says.

But wait. Quiet is a word.  A dovetailing harmony. A play on words. The operation is musical as much as it enters our mind without effort. If we are aware of effort, or contrivance, it irks us like a pun, and is a lower order of poetry for that.

This line by Ada Limón (pictured above) has a loveliness that plays the instrument of the poetic faculty effortlessly, and is all the better a line because of this.

Her word “ours”‘strikes our senses like a beautiful chord (and sung perhaps by a choir?)

just clouds—disorderly, and marvelous and ours

To make this music, our poet must be precise, as “disorderly” as those clouds may be.

In the hush that follows, judgement, like a lizard, flicks its tongue.

We must pick a winner. But the song is barely sung.











  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 29, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Your essays are themselves becoming more and more musical in describing music so that it is difficult to tell the music of the essay from the music of the lines elucidated; they seem to blend together. But it is a lovely difficulty to be in. And impossible not to agree with these “absolute equivalencies”

  2. Ric Couchman said,

    March 30, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    After reading your essay, I sought out the poem from which the line came. What a beautiful poem! Oh, and the analysis in which the line is show-cased is equally exquisite.

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 30, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I’m glad you liked it. Thank you very much for reading it.

    • Ric Couchman said,

      March 30, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Mary, you have been welcoming, kind, and helpful to me ever since I joined this site. I recently published a book of poetry. Would you permit me to send a copy to you for review? I ask with much hesitation as I do not wish to appear too forward. Thank you.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        I’m very sorry Ric. I don’t do reviews. I would however very much like to know where to buy your book.

        • Ric Couchman said,

          March 31, 2016 at 2:28 pm

          I quite understand, Mary. Please forgive my making the request. The book, A Famine of Tears, is available in paperback on Amazon. All proceeds from the sale of the book will be used in support of the St. John’s orphanage in Georgetown, Guyana, the country of my birth.

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            March 31, 2016 at 6:02 pm

            Thank you very much, Ric. There’s nothing to forgive. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask anyone you want to, to review your book especially as I already said I liked your writing very much and I hold to that opinion. I already like the title very much and it is wonderful that you are supporting an orphanage in your home country. Beautiful in fact. Famine of Tears. What a beautiful title…

  4. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 31, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    I see you have another work listed: “Musings from Outside the Universal EBook”. What a title! Very intruiging. This is off the subject but does that New York bakery in your neighborhood with the world’s best chocolate chip cookie sell their cookies online? If not, PLEASE CONVINCE THEM. I can’t get that cookie description from your blog out of my mind. Tres num.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 31, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Never mind. I found it myself. I went back to your blog and it seems the wonderful chocolate chip essay has disappeared which makes my comments about it appear hallucinatory but that’s ok; its your blog. It was a good essay. I’m sorry it disappeared.

      Anyway, for whoever else might be interested in the aforementioned cookie with its invisible essay, the bakery that sells the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie is called The Levain Bakery and its web address is levainbakery.com.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 31, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        Correction it is there, only not in the show window of the blog anymore which I guess is how blogs work. Nothing is stationary. The name of the essay in Ric’s Archives is called Lining Up For It.

    • Ric Couchman said,

      March 31, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      The title for “Musings….” Was influenced by Soren Kierkegaard, one of my favorite philosopher/theologian. At the time I was reflecting an essay he wrote on Abraham.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 31, 2016 at 7:49 pm

        I love Kierkegaard too and considered him my favorite philosopher in school but he wrote so many things in fact I know little of him except I really loved the poetry of his style and his courage in going against the tide in the extreme. I did not know he wrote an essay on Abraham for example. Truly study is an ocean no matter which way you turn. I do hope there are libraries in Heaven.

    • Ric Couchman said,

      March 31, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      “Musings…” as my first-born is like the child born out of wedlock 🙂

  5. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 31, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    probably a genius.

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