Let’s Write in Music 4 – Word Chords

Hana Maui Re-Imagined

Hana Maui Re-Imagined


I love experimenting with poetry.  I love music.  So I have combined the two repeatedly.  As with all experimentation some ideas work some ideas don’t.  Part of what makes music so enjoyable for me is the harmonies that twist and twirl from the lush chords that make up music.  Some music is, of course, only a single line of melody.  This approach can be lovely and was used often in early church music.

But as a lover of dense harmonies, suspensions, releases, I like layers of sound.  I suppose it was inevitable that I would think to layer words in poetry.  Stack up chords of words seemed like a worthy challenge.  The more I tried this technique the easier it got.  The end point was the poem published here earlier called Lines written about my Mother’s journey to death.  It reads equally down from the top and up from the bottom, which was the ‘real’ beginning.

What follows are some poems that made it into my master’s thesis for Mills College, A Child of the Fire. Fear not I’ve only included two.  But looking at the manuscript after years of ignoring it on the shelf, I’m struck by how many times chords snuck into the poems.

For decades now I’ve lived with chronic pain.  In the first two decades I felt a drive to give the pain a poetic voice.  The first poem here, In Another Dimension, comes from near the end of my struggle to make pain even remotely poetic.  In this one you see the ‘chords of words’ and the joy I feel in being able to use the pain creatively rather than letting it pull me down.   

In Another Dimension

The spectrum of pain is         deep and curved

                         a rich      emerald green

and the hot       vermillion           grows

Thick tones of smothering surround

            and try to keep me down,

down to the halfself cave  where blackleaves suck the light

from the easy ground

But I allow  pain’s traction pull to this realm

of deep dark where hums

dense night and the many in one call

in a  world with  no horizon

Here       pain is     filled with stars

there are          no words    to name

                                           the silent waves

                                          of  songlight



Janice DeRuiter ©1990

The next poem is the final one in the book.  It celebrates that in writing poetry I some how regained the power to perform and sing again.  The gift that I tried to bury came back.


I dwell in a pavillion of wordsong,

hear  the shadows     whisper

and unknown petals        fill the air

their    once heard             melodies

echo in                    fire.

Orange gathers itself and grows


speaks softer now becomes

a prayer.

Rings of harmony rise

greening  home    again.

I bloom in a funnel

                 of primary


The Maker  pours

               back the gift

              I gave      away.

Janice DeRuiter©1990


About Winding Stream Press

Janice DeRuiter Eskridge, M.F.A. is a poet who worked for over a decade as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools. Helen Shoemaker, Ph.D. L.M.F.T. is a university professor who teaches in the areas of child development and counseling. She is also a therapist in private practice.
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