Turning Collaborative Poem Into Song (but it ain’t no Shanty)

DS106Poem

The other day, I wrote about a collaborative poem that folks in #ds106, and #clmooc, and beyond had contributed to. With 106 lines in its construction, the poem has now become a place of possible remix. I had joked at one point at trying to write a Sea Shanty with some of the words (ie, TikTok trend) and yesterday morning, after watching a bunch of YouTube videos of the recent Shanty trend, I was pretty confident that I could remix something. Too confident. I tried to work out a song on my guitar and realized my Sea Shanty was becoming more folk-punk with a hint of Dylan.

Ah well. I abandoned that ship and sailed forward into this:

Here are my process notes for the writing and recording:

I dove into the 106 lines of poem and began to find and make couplets to the rhythm I had started on my guitar. Sometimes, I could use the phrasing outright. Other times, I had to do a little twisting and editing to make the words fit. If a line didn’t seem right, I moved on to the next.

I quickly realized again just how much interesting phrasing was going on in the collaboration, as people jumped into the original poem to add lines. I felt bad that I could not use something from every line but that was not going to happen or else it would be a 30 minute song. In the end, I had eight full stanzas of four lines of mostly rhymed couplets.

I realized a chorus and maybe a little musical bridge was needed to break up the song and to give it a hook. I tried a bunch of possibilities and ended up on a Believe/See theme (after abandoning a Breathe/See theme). The couplet lines in the chorus are mine, as they capture what the poem is all about, about remembering and connecting. The short musical interlude is a way to put space between the verse and the chorus.

You can read all the lyrics here.

For the music, I had first thought just to do a raw recording and be done with it. Guitar and voice. But then I had this bass line in my mind and I realized a simple drum pattern would propel it along, so I jumped into Garageband to lay down some tracks. From there, I moved the files to my computer, and recorded the guitar part.

The vocals, always my weakest point, came last and I nearly passed out, trying to fit all the words into the phrasing. At some points, you can hear me, gasping for breath on the phrasing. (or I hear me, anyway).  I gave it a real Dylan reading/singing feel. You may notice that the first section has two verses, and then the next two sections, three verses, before landing on the last section, with one verse. It makes the center of the song feel longer than I’d like but when I had it another way, it all felt too long. Combining verses condensed the song.

I tweaked some of the audio settings here and there, and added an underlying vocal track to the chorus to give it more life and played an organ keyboard down low in the mix, but mostly, the song was recorded straightforward. I think it’s OK.

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

Playing with Petals and Poems

I saw this article in the New York Times about a collaborative game you can play with poetry and a deck of flower-themed cards. They called it The Flower Petal Game, and I decided to give it a try on Twitter with the CLMOOC hashtag, and sure enough, I had some friends playing along.

And now Wendy, and maybe Sarah, are going to spur us into another round on Twitter. Use the #clmooc hashtag if you want to play along, too.

Peace (in poems),
Keivn

Walk My World: Going Off The Deep End

TriAnglPoem v3

The latest Learning Event for Walk My World is about the Shape of Stories, and for some reason, I went literal in my mind, thinking of the triangle as a metaphor for sharing a story. I’ve explored the elements of Shape of Story before so I figured I’d think about it at another, eh, angle and let a poem, eh, take shape.

So, I wrote a poem using some of the vocabulary of math and triangles, and then, because we had a snow day and I had some creative time, I took the poem in all different directions just to see how I might twist its shape a bit more. I wasn’t all that sure what I was after. A traditional shape poem didn’t seem to capture it for me but this isn’t too bad. With shape poems, sometimes, the shape takes over the poem, and the words let lost.

* Where this hypotenuse slides ever downward *

* into angled corners to form an imperfect *

* vertex of legged lines is where the *

* shape of story finds its point, *

* then rests itself upon *

* another teetering *

* edge of the *

*world*

The straightforward text formatting is OK. Just nothing special. But the focus is solely on words, not shape. Here, I was more concerned with where a line ended, and where one began, for flow. I was less worried about that with my shape poem experiments, where the overall shape dictated line breaks.

Where this hypotenuse
slides ever downward
into angled corners
to form an imperfect vertex
of legged lines is
where the shape of story
finds its point, then rests
itself upon another
teetering edge
of the world

The following collage shows three different visual takes as I tried to play with how to put the poem into a triangular shape or to least add words to visual imagery.

The top image (also at top of this post) became my favorite, although I wish I could have thought more deeply about the line length numbers to make them mean something. (they don’t). The bottom right was sort of interesting, with the edge of the world falling off the edge of the triangle (that one was done in MS Word). The bottom left was done with the Pablo site, but the image gets lost behind the words.

TriAnglPoem Collage

Then I found myself composing a soundtrack. My aim had been to use more “triangular” loop and sounds (which are often rough edged due to the jagged wavelengths) but in the end, those didn’t work for me as I had hoped because they were too fuzzy and too raw.

So I made some other loops and tracks, and added a literal musical triangle ringing at the start and at the end. I also ended up reading the poem forward (ending at an imaginary musical vertex point) with audio effects and then reversed some of the words to traverse the poem backwards along the line to an end.

In doing all of this, I pretty much ignored the activity instructions but that’s the best part of being an open participant in any network — I can go my own way and not stress about it.

Peace (angled for good),
Kevin

Poetic Crowd Collaboration

Throwing Poems into the WorldI am always a huge fan of crowd poetry, where technology tools, even simple ones, allow for collaboration of acquaintances and strangers, so I was all in when my CLMOOC/DS106 friends Wendy and Sarah started up a poem for the DS106 9-year celebration of daily creative prompts (The Daily Create). It’s been encouraging and inspiring to see how many people have jumped in to add a line (the goal is 106 lines of poem).

When I have either facilitated or joined these projects in the past, there have always been elements of surprise, or hidden threads that suddenly connect the shared writing together. That we are just writing, and writing poetry, is a huge win in an age of distractions, I would say. I’ll be curious to see where the poem goes.

There’s still room for you, too. Come write a line of the poem.

Peace (and poems),
Kevin

PS — I had this funny idea of intersecting the trend of Sea Shanties on Tik Tok with the DS106 collaborative poem. I didn’t write the song (yet?). I made a comic, instead.

Shanty Time

 

Morning Poems, Collected, from Late Migrations

I really enjoyed the essay collection called Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss), and was working on poems as I was diving in through the book about nature and the world and personal stories (see my review of Margaret Renkl’s book). Sometimes, I write poems in the morning as a response to what I am reading.


– inspired by a reference to the sounds of grasshoppers in Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss) by Margaret Renkl

What I miss most
about the field before the woods
— where houses have been built
on soil, bulldozed, and rocks,
ripped clean of sand and mud —
would be the way you wrapped my hand –
such small fingers, gripping so tight –
as we took each foot, unbearably light,
triggering a tumult of grasshoppers in flight,
every step exploding like spores –
your voice leaping in laugh –
it might as well have been math
as much as magic at play,
the air becoming a perfect thrumming
following us all the way home


“Sometimes, when I haven’t slept or the news of the world, already bad, suddenly becomes much worse, the weight of belonging here is a heaviness I can’t shake.”
— from Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss) by Margaret Renkl, page 67

If only we were birds –
you and I in this wide
open sky –

then we might fly
without anchors weighed
on these tired feet,
this detritus of daily life
and shadows we can’t speak

Perhaps we’d bid the earth goodbye
to find the point
where horizons meet


— First lines are referenced from Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss) by Margaret Renkl, page 128

‘Poems
instead of
papers’

we don’t live
in a world
that values
verse

instead,
to be a poet
contains a crazy
concept

or worse,
a curse

Reclining into recluse
of inked words
and paper
dreams

we’re always
digging in,
to root the hurt,
to mine the
seams


“He will keep on singing until someone accepts his song.”
— from Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss) by Margaret Renkl, page 132

All night, on it goes,
these notes
he throws,
his music into air

she listens
to love songs
he sings;
pretends not to care


“For months the land has been pulling away from the edges of the world.”
— from Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss) by Margaret Renkl, page 169

And our footing’s lost
and trembling, too,
for even as these days
sing longer towards night,
even as the earth pulls ever on
towards beckoning seas,
all we may do now is notice
where it is that we are
and then write our way
where it is we have been,
fill our hearts with hope
that collision isn’t calamity


Peace (and poems in flight),
Kevin

Walking the Memory Path

The second learning activity for Walk My World centered around poetry and memory and culture, and I just went with the concept of a memory of childhood place — an isolated wooded area that our parents never went, and so we always were there, like our own insular outside world.

I actually wrote this as completely free-form poetry in the app (TypiVideo) I used to make the video (and had to reformat it all as stanzas later for the screen as text for my daily poetry site).

Interestingly, this transition out of the app to my screen forced me to “hear” the poem differently, in different rhythm and space and line breaks and flow when moved to writing the poem down. The app does all of the decisions about which words get its own screen, so it’s difficult to control when a pause might happen there. Moving to writing it myself, I regained some agency.

I like how the words are slowly moving there in the video version, dancing, to some original music of mine, though.

And in my mind
I try to find
my way back
to the paths
of the wood,

the place where
we could still be kids –
often kind –
sometimes mean –
navigating the in-between

of the world,
outside, and the world,
inside – stories lost,
but still believed

Peace (walking it lightly),
Kevin

In Response To The Young Poet On The Hill

Words from an Inauguration Poem

(If you watched the Inauguration Ceremonies of President Biden and Vice President Harris, then you no doubt were struck by the words and voice of the young poet, Amanda Gorman)

The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

— Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb

From the Hill We’re Climbing
(Answering the Poet)

I hope your own pen
travels farther than mine,
that your powerful ink
finds water and spreads
into the minds of this nation,
that your voice is the voice
we remember most, years
later when in recall

of this moment of transition

as we sit upon this hill,
looking out in recognition
of how beautiful we are
and can become, if only
we’re listening to our young,
the ones who help us see
how and who we might be

More about Amanda Gorman’s poem for the Biden Inauguration https://thehill.com/homenews/news/535052-read-transcript-of-amanda-gormans-inaugural-poem

Peace (starts here),
Kevin