A recent post on MuseItUp Publishing’s blog on using music to set a mood set me to considering the subject. Although I don’t usually listen to music when I write — I’m a serious amateur musician and often find myself listening to the music — I do make use of musical references in the poems I write.
I’ve written more than one poem containing references to popular songs. In Crack Up, the first poem below, I was listening to the radio when a Kenny Chesney song came on, and I started composing the poem below in my head. I ended up on Kenny’s website looking for the songs I needed to complete the poem as I envisioned it.
In the second poem, Green Peas, I was already very familiar with the songs involved, and hopefully y’all are, too.
Do you listen to music while you work? How do you use musical references in your own writing, and how do you react to them in the writing of others? Leave a comment and let me know.
Swish through car-lit darkness
Past squares of light,
street signs sparkling green and white.
Roll down your window,
feel the lemon air
ruffle what’s left of your hair.
Kenny Chesney blaring on the radio
loud enough to silence the thoughts in your head
waiting to be drowned in a cold beer.
Your wheels slide through ghosts of clouds,
past skeleton trees waving bare arms,
past lighted windows with families eating
roast chicken, green beans, potatoes
while the letter from your daughter
crinkles in your back pocket,
your seat belt chafing as
Kenny croons Who you’d Be Today.
The smell of leaf smoke drifts
through the window
as you drive at twenty-five miles per hour
past the cop in the turn-out on your left,
as the rain starts dripping down your windshield
and your windshield wipers quit.
You reach for a beer
as Kenny starts singing Keg in the Closet.
Your car drifts into the center of the road
as you drop the empty on the floor,
reach behind you for another,
one hand on the wheel.
The car skids on wet leaves
going around that curve in the road
you forgot was there
and Kenny sings Steamy Windows.
The sweat drips down your neck
as you wrestle with the steering wheel,
brake on the empties,
your seat belt unfastened.
Skid into the tree.
Glass arrows your cheek your eye.
You’re bleeding from your ear.
Somewhere Kenny’s singing How Forever Feels.
Green Peas, A poem-song
1. Mom: Tune: Greensleeves
Alas my son you know it’s wrong
to leave the table discourteously.
Don’t give me “pretty please,” come along.
Sit down and finish your green peas.
2: Son: Tune: Red River Valley
How can you serve these peas, knowing
I hate them; I’ve told you six times.
Don’t give me that stuff about growing.
You must think that I’m still a child!
3: Sister: Tune: Sixteen Tons
Sixteen year old, is this what I get?
If you want to chase me out, well, now you’re all set.
If Peter calls, just say I’m out, that’s all you know.
Can’t stay another minute, Mom, I’ve got to go.
4: Dad: Tune: Good King Wenceslas
What’s this fighting all about?
Please give me a reason.
Everyone can hear you shout
clear over at the Gleason’s.
Give him a break just for tonight,
you are being cruel.
All you do is scream and shout.
I think you’re a fool.
5: Mom: Tune: Greensleeves
Green peas were for the boy,
but green peas aren’t worth a fight.
Green peas have brought no joy.
Forget about eating those green peas.