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
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
Rings of harmony rise
greening home again.
I bloom in a funnel
The Maker pours
back the gift
I gave away.