Thursday, September 2, 2010

Let's All Write Something With Assonance!

This exercise seems to be another aimed toward focusing one's poetic chops and igniting a sense of language play/craft in the poet.  I found Pagett's explanation of assonance a little obscure (raising the question in my mind of the difference between it and rhyme) but found a more helpful explanation from Merriam-Webster: 

a : relatively close juxtaposition of similar sounds especially of vowels b : repetition of vowels without repetition of consonants (as in stony and holy) used as an alternative to rhyme in verse

So, what we're talking about is a euphonious flow of vowel sounds in our words.  I had an example of Alan Rickman reading Shakespeare's 130th Sonnet that I was going to use as an illustration, but driving home down a country road after 3 am after work lately has brought me to a place of listening to wild, loud music for about half an hour every day to stay awake.  One of my favorites has been Tom Waits' Real Gone album and yesterday it hit me how perfect the song Don't Go Into That Barn works for this exercise.  Also, Tom Waits' music tends to be "coming off the rails" and beautiful mixtures of the flaws falling in line, elements of discord lining up in beautiful ways, like dropping a set of pots and pans down a flight of stairs and having them just happen to, for the one time in statistical history, create a perfectly executed song on their way down.  I feel that assonance is a perfect fit for his work.

I would especially point out this section:
"Bank since Saginaw Calinda was born
It's been cotton, soybeans, tobacco and corn
Behind the porticoed house of a
Long dead farm
They found the falling down timbers
Of a spooky old barn
Out there like a slave ship
Upside down
Wrecked beneath the waves of a rain
When the river is low
They find old bones and
When they plow they always
Dig up chains"
 Note the flow of vowel sounds and the pairing of near rhyme in "low" and "bones," "farm" and "barn," etc.

Padgett does not provide the fence of a form this time, so I'm just going to free associate a bit.  Remember, I never said these exercises had to produce excellent material on the first try, just like sparring matches aren't expected to win heavy-weight championships (I was really taking a risk attempting a sports metaphor, I'll have you know.)  We are doing exercises here.  The important thing is to do them.

If you choose to do this exercise, feel free to try it with any form you choose.

The Assonance of Lost Time
 by Paul Mathers

Old oily Rome with stony, holy domes,
Battered walls caterwauling, the obvious ancient.
My abode in my globe corner seems so recent.
A modern fresco masking the echo of footprints. 
The ancient painted over with sassy artifice, 
to mask matter's eternality, mutability,
all reborn, dust reformed,
cities made of clay remains
of whatever came before.


  1. Gerard Manley Hopkins has many fine poems bursting with both assonance and consonance.

    But I do love your description of Waits. That's one of my favorite songs on that album. My fav albums of his tend to be the pairing of Alice and Blood Money... which puts me in a minority, I suppose, but I'm used to being there.

  2. Alice and Blood Money took a while to grow on me, but, according to my iPod, they're two of my most played albums now. Alice is great music for driving home from work at 3 am.

  3. I like the picture of your poem.
    And us in that time and dust.

  4. Alice was my introduction to Tom Waits. I fell in love with his music immediately. Everything was just so far out there and so very much exactly what it is, if that makes any sense. I began gut laughing with glee hearing the second track on that album for the first time.

  5. Thank you, Judy!

    Christopher, my first Tom Waits was on a mix tape that my first crush gave me in high school. I remember thinking the first time I heard it (I think it was Rain Dogs) I thought "Wow! This is like the kind of music I've always wanted to listen to, but never knew existed."