Day 5: Ten Days of Writing in April

Musical Memories.

Thank you, yet again, to the lovely Kate at the Haggs Farm Preservation Society. Today’s prompt includes a poem from D H Lawrence and a guide to using the ideas from it in your own writing.

Piano

BY D. H. LAWRENCE

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

Flashbacks are key to character creation but can often seem clumsy or contrived. In his poem, Piano, DH Lawrence uses music, such a powerful memory trigger, to transport us back to the innocence of childhood. 

Imagine yourself, or your character, in a scene where you hear some music, maybe a concert or festival, tuning in to the radio, or simply hearing a snippet in the supermarket, which takes you right back to when you were young. 

It’s a simple idea, but try using alliteration, sibilance or onomatopoeia to create the sound of the music, and varying your style to create an adult and child voice. Lawrence achieves a powerful effect by contrasting the complex ‘insidious mastery of song’ and the ‘piano appassionato’ with the simple ‘tinkling piano’ and ‘boom of the tingling strings’.

Think about the past setting; by placing the child under the piano, Lawrence shows us exactly how small they are; perhaps you’re hiding at the top of the stairs to listen to your brother’s pop music, or dazzled by the lights at the school disco, or weighed down by blankets falling asleep to grandad’s lullaby. 

Play around with rhythm and rhyme too; look at the enjambment of ‘cast/down’ and the single syllables Lawrence uses at the end of the poem to show how emotion has overwhelmed him. Even when you write prose, your writing needs pattern and shape to create movement. 

Enjoy!

Let us know how you get on! Email submissions@rachaelscribbles.com or DM on Instagram.

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