As I've mentioned a few times before, one of the nice things of being middle-aged is that you pretty much know what you're good at, what you're not -- and you're comfortable it. You're open with your shortcomings -- but you don't worry about false humility about your strengths.
And I don't mean that you go around showing off or bragging. But you're willing to talk about what you're good at.
For example, I really have no
sense of direction -- no sense at all. But I have pretty strong spacial skills (e.g. being able to tell what boxes will fit into the back of a truck).
So: last night I was helping my daughter with her homework, which was: creating an additional verse to the Robert Frost poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
. It's the poem with the lines "My little horse must think it queer // To stop without a farmhouse near" -- and ends with "And miles to go before I sleep // And miles to go before I sleep".
The Lady had originally tried to help The Girl come up with a new verse that fit with the original poem -- but they both got stuck. So The Lady handed The Girl off to me. The preliminary lines they came up with were pretty close -- but the original poem had eight beats per line ("dah DAH dah DAH dah DAH DAH DAH"), whereas their attempts were missing a few beats.
I tried to not do the homework for
The Girl, but instead guide
her towards the solution -- but, man
was it hard! I came up with multiple replacement verses in my head, and a zillion rhymes for "-eep" -- but The Girl was having a hard time putting them together.
At that point I realized that -- hey! -- maybe being able to crank out poetry (or song lyrics) is a skill: apparently not everyone (e.g. my wife, my daughter) can do it. Basically, if I start with any word that defines the rhyme scheme, I can come up with a verse or two that makes some sort of narrative sense -- basically as fast as I can speak them..
Here's two examples: I picked the word "quagmire
", off the top of my head. Then I made up a little poem, which came to me basically as fast as I could type it (and by the way -- if you're playing along at home, now's the time to **also** try to come up with four lines that rhyme with "quagmire".
I am in such a quagmire
Whenever I shop at Fred Meyer.
The shelves are full of much attire --
But nothing that sets me afire.
(Again, go ahead and make something up yourself.)
You look so grand with your umbrella;
You look like such a dashing fella.
Shirt of red, and vest of yella --
But not as chic as Penn or Tella!
I mean, it's not genius
-- but it's pretty good for totally off-the-top-of-the-head.
So, I'll go for a month or two without writing any new songs. And then I'll have a month when I'm inspired by something arbitrary, and I'll crank out an entire song in a matter of minutes -- usually while riding the bus to or from work.
Yesterday, for example, I wrote all the but final verse of a song about why Archie is an idiot for choosing Veronica over Betty Cooper. I'm pleased with it.
And the verse that we wrote? The first line, which The Lady and The Girl came up with, was "Across the sky the clouds creep
" -- which was pretty close -- but "Across the sky the clouds do creep
" works better.
The second line was -- with prompting from me -- "The bushes look like fluffy sheep
". That is, they're white and fluffy, eh?
The third line is supposed to have a different rhyme. I think The Girl came up with (by herself!) "At home my mother waits for me
And then we had a long, drawn-out process where I tried to get the girl to come up with a rhyme for "-eep
" -- which also made sense with the rest of the verse. "Peep
Lots of choices, most of them would work. But we ended up choosing "weep
", since it's an emotional reaction and it made sense in relation to someone waiting anxiously for you. More prodding to get The Girl to craft it into a line. I think The Girl got to "And when I get home she weeps" --
which breaks the rhythm.
So after additional nudging, we added "will
", just to use up an extra syllable: "And when I get home she will weep
Decent enough. :)
(10/27/13 - UPDATE -- I e-mailed a few family and friends, with a "challenge" of cranking out some rhymes. Everybody did well: it seems that the ability to crank out poetry is not as rare as I thought. Fair enough.
But I'm still keeping the blog entry.)
Labels: my traits, poetry, songwriting