Using Sound Elements in Poetry: A Little Bacon and Egg Music

English: Bacon and Eggs frying on an electric ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Daily Post Challenge yesterday was to write about The Sound of Blogging, incorporating sound into one’s writing. That got me to thinking about how sound is often used as a poetic device. As I went through some of my poems to assemble a set for a poetry reading, I came across A Little Bacon and Egg Music. That’s a poem I wrote responding to a different prompt, one to incorporate natural disaster juxtaposed with unrelated elements. That was part of the Southeast Review’s 30-day writing regimen back in February.  But when I came to titling the piece, it was so full of sound that it suggested music to me.

Here’s the poem (one clarification here. The Mississippi River referred to is not the one in the United States. It is the one that flows through my town, Carleton Place, Ontario.

For that river, it is quite possible for a tree bridge across one of its forks)  I tried to juxtapose the violent nature of a storm outside with an ordinary domestic scene at breakfast:

A Little Bacon and Egg Music

on the counter, the kettle whispers its morning boil in tune
toaster catapults crisp rye that leaps up brown and done.
spoons shiver in the sugar bowl, a subtle rustle of sound.

above the stove the wind torpedoes through the fan exhaust,
its assault thwarted so far by barriers of brick and
metal shaft elbowing round corners.

eggs bright as miniature suns gaze back at me
from where they sizzle in the pan. They cackle and spit,
a call for bacon’s smoky pizzazz, a little jazz lick.

out back, the crack and flash of lightning, as it knifes to earth,
the hoarse retort of a river oak split from leader to root into
a new bridge across the Mississippi fork.

Lightning 2

Lightning 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed a good piece to use as an example of how sound might work in a poem. Sometimes, poets use onomatopoeia, trying to mimic in words the sound the words refer to.  Or, as informs me:

on·o·mat·o·poe·ia   [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh, ‐mah-tuh‐]

noun 1. the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk,  or boom,  by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.

2. a word so formed.

3. the use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical, dramatic, or poetic effect

In the poem, I have tried to use onomatopoeia with the words sizzle, cackle, spit, to describe the sound eggs make as they fry. And again, in the use of crack to describe lightning.

Another way sound appears in poems is through sibilance.The “sssss” sounds in a poem. In the first stanza, the kettle whispers, spoons shiver in the sugar bowl, a subtle rustle of sound.

A poet might use assonance, repeating certain vowels: For example, in the second stanza, the “o” sounds of stove, torpedoes, and so. And in the third and fourth stanzas all the “a” sounds: back, crack, flash, and again the “o” sounds of hoarse, retort, oak, and fork.

Not to be outdone, the consonants too have sound effects, referred to as, of course, consonance.  The hard “k” sounds of kettle and catapult and crisp, the “p’s” of catapult and leaps. The “b’s” of barriers and brick, and later, bright and back. And my favourite two sounds that use both vowel and consonant: pizzazz and jazz.

As well as using sound for effect, word choice can convey the force of the image, so that the hard “k” sounds of words are more suggestive of the violence of the storm while the ordinary scene has more of the soft sounds that sibilance creates. (Except, of course, the catapulting toast!)

Upcoming Tree Reading Series July 24

This item was omitted from the Notices, info and photo comes from the Tree post here:
This event takes place at Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa
The Ottawa Arts Court. Formerly the Carleton C...

The Ottawa Arts Court. Formerly the Carleton County Courthouse, the building now serves as Ottawa’s municipal arts centre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tuesday  July 24 6:45pm Free Workshop  Stuart Ross on After Joe Brainard
A workshop sparked by the literary works of the late and magnificent Joe Brainard, on the occasion of the release of his Collected Writings and the re-release of the legendary Bean Spasms collaboration between Joe, Ron Pagett, and Ted Berrigan.
8:00 p.m.  Readings Dead Poet Reading, Open Mic and this Featured Reader:

Jacob McArthur Mooney

Jacob was the winner of 2012 Poem of the Year contest from Ottawa’s own Arc Magazine.More >

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 1

Well, today I combined the prompt from Poetic Asides’ PAD challenge to write a communication related poem with NaPoWriMo’s triolet challenge. I will be the first to admit my triolet skills are rusty indeed.

End Notes

These words must say what there is left to say
to end this thing that changes love to hate.
At start who’d know that we would see this day
these words must say what there is left to say?
Such trite regrets and sorrow and dismay
we’ve left so little now it is too late.
These words must say what there is left to say
to end this thing that changes love to hate.