April 12, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: Clarinet

It's been a music-filled week at the Shovan house.

Saturday, our son's high school marching band won third place at their national competition. He is a percussionist, currently on vibes.

This is me wearing the band-mom hat I knitted in my son's school colors.

Once a band geek, always a band geek. I was a flautist. Now I'm a band mom.

This week was our daughter's first middle school band concert. She plays clarinet. We've talked a few times about adding a second instrument (sax -- not for her, the deep tone kept making her laugh) but she is devoted to her clarinet.
My daughter spotted this early clarinet at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and pronounced it "weird."
Lately, I've been writing poems about my daughter. The fact that she is in middle school has triggered memories of my days at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle, but also has me on parental alert as she transitions from 'tween to young adult.

I was looking for a clarinet poem for her and found one by Terrance Hayes. I don't think she's ready for this poem yet. It's a  very gentle love poem, but more suited for the teen side of 'tween. Teachers -- I'd recommend this poem for eighth grade and up.

All of these instruments are in the clarinet family. My daughter plays the "traditional" B flat clarinet.


by Terrance Hayes

I am sometimes the clarinet
your parents bought
your first year in band,
my whole body alive
in your fingers, my one ear
warmed by the music
you breathe into it.
I hear your shy laugh
among the girls at practice.
I am not your small wrist
rising & falling as you turn
the sheet music,
but I want to be.
Or pinky bone, clavicle.
When you walk home   
from school, birds call
to you in a language
only clarinets decipher. 
Read the rest at Poetry Foundation.

Hayes visited our area last month. He is a powerful poet (National Book Award winner) and a great speaker. I love the metaphor at work in "Clarinet." It is never spoken, but the clarinet and its music are deeply loved by the girl in the poem. It's soul love. The speaker's hint of sexual love is quiet -- the girl in the poem isn't there yet.

Fellow PF blogger Tabatha Yeatts (The Opposite of Indifference) and I  had a long talk about our kids and music over lunch recently. Kids who are musicians associate strongly with their chosen instruments. It's part of who they are and can define how they see themselves.

If I tell you that my son is a percussionist, my daughter a clarinetist and Tabatha's daughter is a French horn player, you begin to form an image of each child. Interesting. 
Musicians out there, what do you think about  how choice of instrument can define a person? Why did Hayes choose a clarinetist for this poem -- rather than a girl who plays the trombone?

This week's Poetry Friday host is Tabatha herself. But before you check out more poetry, check out this musical "Clarinet Poem."


Tabatha said...

What are those huge instruments in the clarinet family picture? Are they another kind of clarinet?

I heard a middle school band and chorus perform three times (each) yesterday while I was doing some volunteer work. The kids seemed to enjoy it every time (me too). It's so important for kids to have that kind of outlet!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha. Same here -- I got to go to Band class for American Education week, a concert the following evening, and again for the 6th grade awards.

It's easy to find information online about the instruments in the clarinet family. This one has descriptions alongside pictures.

Ruth said...

Wow, what a great poem and a great post. My daughter entered high school this year and I am with you as far as the memories flooding back.

Linda B said...

I love the poem, and understand it might not be right for a young daughter yet, but later... I was a band geek too, as were my children. It's a special, dedicated group and my son was lucky that his leader loved to travel. They went so many places to perform. I must admit I played trombone, and it is interesting to think about the different instruments and what they say about who plays them. I wanted to be different in my choice as I remember.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Lovely post, great questions. My son sings and plays guitar, leading youth worship at our church and other venues. I can't imagine his life without music - I'll be he couldn't either!

Author Amok said...

Ruth -- it is transformational to live through a child's middle school experience.

My kids and I often talk about the "persona" of each section of the band. My son thought it was hysterical when I said percussionists were on their own planet. He thinks it's still true.

Robyn -- Thank you for stopping by. It's a gift to have children, with their music, in the house. I can't imagine our home without that. Glad you are experiencing it too.