Using Sound Effects in Your Poetry
by Beth Boldman
Now that we have written a few poems, using Twitter as a platform, a poet uses various techniques to make your poems stand out from the crowd. A few of these include alliteration, symbolism, and metaphors. These will bring depth and resonance to your work.
Let’s begin with alliteration. Everyone knows the Peter Piper Picked a Peck poem—the repetition of a sound is alliteration. In the early 1800’s a group of English poets used this technique to create sound effects in their poems—they called this “divine wind,” a wind that brought to the poem and the reader “inspiritus” or “inspiration” from a supernatural origin.
Not only did this effect give an emphasis on nature, the topics of these poems were paranormal, with legendary ghosts, spiritual stories set on the Brontes’ moors that spawned the Gothic movement later in the 19th Century.
The alliteration these Romantics used were a combination of “w”s, “h”s, “s”s or any other letters that evoked a windy sound such as “with a whimsical smile he sailed away from the shore.”
Take note of the “w” in away—the “w” does not have to necessarily come at the beginning of the word to be useful in conjuring up this holy breeze. Once you understand this windy color, you can carry it throughout your verses.
Here is a tiny poem I wrote several months ago where I used alliteration—to create that “divine wind” the Romantics used:
I had a dream in a seashell:
I tasted the ocean,
heard a heavenly wind;
fell into sandy earth
where all was silent
The poem is short, but with the alliteration and wind, it takes on added meaning.
In one of my favorite Romantic poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias the master uses alliteration to deepen his meaning. Ozymandias was the Greek name for Rameses the Great, and what happened to his monumental statue in an ironic twist when compared to Moses—the “traveler” and his religion which has survived the ravages of time to create Judaism and Christianity.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
When I taught English, I had my students circle all the letters that created the wind sound in this poem. It always surprised them that there were so many.
The next poetic device that is used to create depth, is symbolism. This is where a poet takes a concrete object such as a statue and gives it an intangible meaning—the “colossal Wreck” in Ozymandias not only represents the Egyptian culture, it also means the ruins of Rameses’s Empire but also his wicked ways and the bondage he put the Israelites through during his reign as pharaoh.
The object must be tangible but its meaning must make the reader dig for the treasure of meaning that an ordinary verse would not necessarily have.
Here is one of my poems:
A darkness glows in a wicked glint,
a squatting toad, with blood red eyes,
he carries in his back jeans’ pocket
a scar along his temple to his chin
tells a bloody tale—
his associates are worst—clearly,
he didn't win.
Killing that woman
showed he hates everyone in this God-forsaken world;
& he needed revenge for losing that last fight
with men who were his betters.
The toad is the symbol of this criminal’s history; it started in his youth as an egg where he was beaten by a stepfather or brother, grew into a tadpole with petty crimes listed on a rapsheet the police made, and when he killed a woman—an old lover who was most-likely as depraved as he, that toad grew bigger and more evil.
The final poetic instrument is metaphors.
Everyone knows that similes are comparisons using words “like” and “as.” For example, “his gritty smile was like a ginsu knife.” A metaphor is a comparison without the “like” or the “as.” For example: “his bright, toothy smile was a ginsu knife he used to slice and dice easily manipulated women.”
Most writers use similes, but I see metaphors as more direct, more pointed and cutting. They show that a poet knows his/her tools and sharpens them regularly.
Here is one of mine:
He owned downtown with a saunter and an air of superiority
his dealership, a million dollar operation, on a corner lot
said it all—
his love for the deal was a polished gold pen
in which he conned the uninitiated,
Grinning, waving, shaking hands like a empty politician.
He sold his soul a long time ago
to make his first sale just out of business school.
Yet, when he walked into his grand mansion,
kissed his model-sque wife
he went into his leather covered den, what was left for him to do?
What would he take with him when this was over?
He never really wondered about that, now,
So take these three poetic tools and use them when writing your poems on Twitter, or for #SlamWords, or for any of your writing efforts. I know your work will improve and deepen.
About the Author
Beth Boldman lives in Idaho and as a retired high school teacher, she enjoys writing novels and poetry. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 1986 and taught school for 27 years teaching such subjects as English, History, and Government.
She has written 20 novels, which are available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited by B.E. Boldman. She enjoys reading, music, crafting, and shopping with her sister.
You can read Beth’s “Poetry Corner” column on the 3rd Friday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.