Thursday 20 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I have an interesting reaction to this question, because in addition to being a poet I’m a musician and songwriter, and while for many folks those art forms are siblings—or maybe cousins—writing songs feels very different to me than writing poems. I’ve really struggled to write decent song lyrics! I want to approach a song like I approach a poem, but that doesn’t work so well. To me, it feels like a totally different muscle, and I’ve been humbled by the incredible songwriters in the world who manage to rhyme and give us an ear worm and yet also do something lyrically fresh.

But maybe that’s not what you meant. Musical language is incredibly important to me; I’m always reading my drafts aloud to listen for off-rhyme and syllabics and line length (and sometimes I purposefully mess with all of that, and create lines that aren’t so musical, to indicate distress or ugliness or the like). When I had a first draft of my current manuscript, “Refloating,” I tried to create a sense of music not just within each poem but between them throughout the manuscript. This meant being careful not to repeat adjectives, say, but to purposefully repeat certain nouns and verbs, to create echoes. I remember discovering after I’d sent it out that I’d used the verb “coax” in two poems that were too close together and kind of freaking out. Ha!

I love playing with stuff like that. It’s the joy of the work, to me.

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