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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ST. PATRICK'S DAY: The Sound of Green


This morning I posted on my "Here, Where I Am " a poem by Thomas Hardy, "Neutral Tones." I noticed yet again how he uses language to sound the "tone" of the poem, the emotional center of it. Words like "chidden," "bitter," and "stood," for example, in the first stanza set up the way we hear this poem of desolation.

WE stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Just listen to the vowels here. Most of them fall in the lower range, coming close to the shudder vowel, the ugh, the lowest register our voices can reach. The chest voice, as a singer would call it. The vowel scale rises from that all the way to the top of the throat. Try moving up it aloud, beginning with the shudder vowel, rising, rising.... The long eeeee at the top goes right to your head, doesn't it? Like the sound of green. (The long "e" and "a" are in Hardy's poem, too, of course, but they are muted by vowels in the lower register.)

How does "green "sound? On St. Pat's Day, that's a worthy question. So, I'm inviting anyone--student, teacher, parent, child--to send me a poem that sounds like "green." You don't even have to be Irish to give it a try!

The first poem posted in the comments section will be given its own post tomorrow, with special commendation. The others? They'll be posted, too. So don't miss out on this chance to be part of the "singin' o' the green."

2 comments:

Diane, Teacher said...

As I stood on my porch at sunset today, I could hear the "sound of green".

Tree frogs sing
Crickets cheep
Pink fingers of sunshine stream along the horizon
The days stretch, the nights shrink
Nature’s music reveals
Spring is here!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thank you, Diane. I love that sound, too. And yes, I would stand on my porch and listen. I haven't done that yet this spring. I particularly like "the days stretch, the nights shrink," and how you have put day and night together on one line with the caesura break in the middle. Perfect. And the vowel sounds make spring music come alive.