April 12, 2016

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 Sound Poem Project Day 21: Traditional Chinese Music

It’s Day 21 of Author Amok's 2015 poem-a-day project. We are spending February writing in response to sounds.  

For a full description of the project and how to participate, please read this post. I hope you'll join us. I'll continue posting poems from Day 21 as they come in. Thanks to everyone who has sent in poems so far.

I was in awe when I began reading your poems for today's sound. Although I selected the prompts more or less at random, this clip made for rich poetry.

Our Day 21 prompt is traditional Chinese music recorded in Xinjiang province.

Let’s begin with an illustrated poem by Diane Mayr of Random Noodling.

I love the way Diane can tell a story in such a compact way.

Mike Ratcliffe writes in, “The sound clip put me in a mood for Chinese poetry, especially from the High Tang Period, which I love.”

Listening to a Chinese Folk Tune on the Internet, I Think of the Old Man Playing an Erhu in San Francisco’s Chinatown the Night I Walked Back to My Hotel from North Beach
By Mike Ratcliffe
Was that you Li Po, playing the erhu
in that alley in Chinatown?
The mournful tones as you
drew the bow across the strings
caused me to stop staggering
down the street. I swayed slowly
as I held onto a lamppost and listened.

Where did you go, Li Po?
You vanished before I could ask
you to share cups of wine
with me and Kerouac at Vesuvio’s.
I followed the strains of your immortal tune
through the streets that night.
I never saw you again,
but in some ways I think
that was the night I embraced the moon.

After making some notes about the sounds in the clip, I did a little bit of research on the place where it was recorded. Xingjiang is China's largest and most northwest province. It borders on many countries, making it ethnically diverse. This is the source where I read some Urumqi’s disturbing recent history.

Summer in Urumqi
By Laura Shovan

water trickles in the tea garden
            years before riots and mass arrests
a bow glides across the Ban hu’s strings
            now authorities continue to silence
birds joining the song
            abuses in the wake of unrest
voices echo in the garden
            dozens of the Uighur ethnic minority
silverware clinks and rattles
disappeared, still
a sad, gentle song

City of Uruqi with Yamalik Mountain.
Robyn Hood Black is visiting the same garden, but having a different experience. Still, I think the protestors in my poem would appreciate the last tercet in Robyn’s poem.


on a whiff of jasmine tea, and

(You talk of flight.)

bow in balance on the string
I listen. Sip. 

(You balance words.)

Look – someone has left open
the wire door
of the cage.

©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved. 

There is love and loss in Linda Baie’s tea garden also.

Two Minutes

I saw you then,
while the arboretum filled,
people drawn in by the music,
and you stared at me from your table.
I almost lost you
as the strings moved into another phase.
The violin strengthened.
People spoke louder.
My ears rang
and I kept staring,
listening, looking.
People settled in for
the free concert,
a bird chirped from the ceiling
I grabbed a quick look,
and you were gone.
My concert ended.

Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

Patricia had trouble hearing the sound clip, so she chose something else recorded by the same person. She says this link “identified the tune as Indian/Pakistani wedding music.”

By Patricia VanAmburgh

To the piping bird
on a far off bough—
the breeze ferries
your melodies—
my yearning calls
each note closer—
until you drift away

Wikomapia says Ajoli is a village. Patricia says, “After I wrote my response, I googled “Ajoli” and found these curious videos on you tube.”

Be sure to visit Carol Varsalona’s blog, BeyondLiteracy, where she has posted her own Day 21 response, set in New York's Central Park.

I like the way that Charles Waters introduces color into his response poem today.


Camouflage coats,
Quivering throats,
Aureate notes,
Violin sighs,
Whispering flies,
Ocean-like skies.

 (c) Charles Waters 2015 all rights reserved.

Let’s end with Margaret Simon’s beautiful image poem.

The Rhythms of a Crowded Cafe'
By Margaret Simon

Clanking of silver taps a beat.
Bird from its cage adds a tweet.

Violin musician strums his tune
While patrons toast the rising moon.

For those interested in reading more about traditional Chinese instruments, this website is informative.

We're almost at the finish line, poets!

Here are all of the sound prompts for the last week of February. Remember, there will be a prize for our most prolific poet.

Sorry about this one, everybody. I swear I chose it back in above-freezing January.

Recommended by Heidi of My Juicy Little Universe. Sort of.

Choose a train sound. Thanks to Myra of Gathering Books for the suggestion!

Suggested by Jennifer Lewis.

Sunday, March 1: Project Wrap-up

If you'd like some poem-starters to wake up your muse, you'll find them at the bottom of this post. Drop in any time with a poem. I’ll continue to post your work throughout the month, no matter which sound you are writing in response to.

Would you like to read what we’ve written so far? Here are links to the week 3 poems. Each of these posts links to the week 1 and 2 poems.

Santa Fe Church Bells Poems by Linda Baie, Patricia VanAmburg, Diane Mayr, Laura Shovan, and Charles Waters.

Quaking Aspen Poems by Diane Mayr, Charles Waters, Laura Shovan, Patricia VanAmburg, Mike Ratcliffe, and Karin Fisher-Golton.

Laughing Child Poems by Charles Waters, Diane Mayr, Laura Shovan, Michael Ratcliffe, Linda Baie, and Margaret Simon.

Mysterious Space Sound Poems by Patricia VanAmburg, Charles Waters, Mike Ratcliffe, Laura Shovan, Linda Baie, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, and Margaret Simon.

Museum Stairwell Poems by Linda Baie, Mike Ratcliffe, Laura Shovan, Charles Waters, Margaret Simon, Diane Mayr, Patricia VanAmburg, and Karin Fisher-Golton.

Reptile Poems by Linda Baie, Patricia VanAmburg, Margaret Simon, Laura Shovan, Mike Ratcliffe, Donna Smith, and Robyn Hood Black.

Traditional Chinese Music Poems by Diane Mayr, Mike Ratcliffe, Laura Shovan, Robyn Hood Black, Linda Baie, Patricia VanAmburg, Carol Varsalona, and Margaret Simon.


Robyn Hood Black said...

Wow - not amazing we would pick up on the same details, but several of us had a similar theme? (Even Patricia's - similar details and then a leave-taking at the end.) I really enjoyed reading these together!

Margaret Simon said...

I agree with Robyn about the amazing similarities in tone. I'm surprised that the moon showed up in mine and Mike's. There is something stirring in the universe with this project. I wish I had done some research. Looks like that experience enriched the poem responses.

Michael Ratcliffe said...

These are fabulous poems. The whole week has been great and these are like icing on the cake. Laura, I like the way you wove together the song, the bird, and the troubles in Xinjiang. The flow and the form evoke the bow being drawn across the strings. The talk of flight and the balanced words in Robyn's take on new meaning when thinking about the strife in Xinjiang. Well done, poets! I can't wait to get started on our final week.

Michael Ratcliffe said...

Margaret-- I had the same thought when I read your poem. In the poetry of the Tang Period, the moon was a symbol of love. Legend has it that Li Po (likely drunk) fell off a boat and drowned while trying to embrace the moon. In the West, the moon is generally equated with lunacy (hence the word). Some of my professional colleagues (geographers and statisticians, mostly) tend to view writing poetry as a crazy pursuit. Given the direction my poem had taken, embracing the moon seemed a fitting way to end.

Anonymous said...

Today's poems are wonderful together and individually--lovely floating music of violins and flutes.

Author Amok said...

Poetry working it's magic. That's what I like about reading the responses side-by-side, Robyn. They talk to one another.

Author Amok said...

I liked the simplicity of your poem too, Margaret. A light touch was a good fit for the sounds of that outdoor restaurant? Tea garden? We'll never know.

Author Amok said...

Mike, thanks for the extra details Herr. What a lovely, sad story.

Author Amok said...

Floating is a great word for the sound(s) we had today.

Author Amok said...

Floating is a great word for the sound(s) we had today.

Author Amok said...

Mike, thanks for the extra details Herr. What a lovely, sad story.

Author Amok said...

I liked the simplicity of your poem too, Margaret. A light touch was a good fit for the sounds of that outdoor restaurant? Tea garden? We'll never know.

Linda B said...

Laura, I think you've brought us into a new awakening of how sound can influence our thoughts so mightily. Poets, all beautiful, and do seem to "carry the tune" side by side. What a journey!

Anonymous said...

yes, Linda: an awakening.

Robyn Hood Black said...

(Love reading these insights in the comments almost as much as reading the poems!)

Anonymous said...

great image of the open wire door Robyn.

RobynHood Black said...

Thank you. How enlightening to read Laura's backstory and poem about the region.

Carol Varsalona said...

Laura, as a I read through the poems on Day 21 I am honored that you mentioned mine. Draft one then was reformatted to a better visual. The work of word crafting is enhanced by the process of listening to sounds. Thank you for the opportunity.