Contact Us

Have a question or comment? Send it along, and we'll get back to you lickety-split. 

Pittsburgh, PA




NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt #27: Follow the Sound

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty: 4/5

Well, we're into the last week of NaPoWriMo and congratulations on making it this far! It's been a thrilling, exciting, slow, exacting month, so we're taking you out with some interesting, not-particularly-easy ideas to get you away from your comfort zone.

Today, we're thinking about sound and where sound takes your mind. Some people like to have music or news on in the background when they write; it allows their minds to wander in and out of the page. Others need complete silence to delve as deeply as they need to go into their brains to pull out words by the roots. If you are in the former group, excellent! If you are in the latter group, stick around anyway and see what you can come up with, doing something that might make you uncomfortable.

Listen to each of the sound clips below (say 30 seconds or so, more if you're really into it) and see how each of the pieces affects your mindset, your language usage, and your ability to coalesce thoughts into words. Here is the first clip:

What I came up with:

throwing pots and pans down stairs
the sun is overwhelming off the metal roof of the silos
the aggregation of bowl and hot wheels is worthy of reflection
I want to kick holes in car doors


Here is the second clip (it's a bit more mellow):

clapboard walls and the amble of a creek
holler about a holler
conversations about the setting sun and the depth of shadows
the fiddle speaks in a human tone


And here's the last one (and perhaps the oddest one (I like it quite a bit):

interruption of breath
machine-aided collapse
aphasia coded in binary
neurons stuffed with cotton
unsupervised home-cooked icepick q-tip
slap attack and diffusion


So you've got some words inspired by (in spite of?) the music you've heard. Take what you've written and see what you can make of it. Investigate the mood of each group of words. How is each piece different? An how does one piece inform and distract you from the next one? These are some of the questions you're going to come across as you write and consider your responses.

Break phrases apart to single words, remix and make them stranger! As ever, it is possible that have not heard heard anything like this before--use the novelty to make a poem that doesn't sound like anything you've written before. Aldous Huxley has a book called The Doors of Perception. Use the music to choose different doors than you normally would.

Bonus points! If you want to make it more interesting for yourself, take the words from the different pieces and integrate them with one another and see if you can make it work. It might also be interesting to compare the words and mood that you've noticed and figure out a way they might work together. If you're working with others, see what they thought and felt about the music--it seems unlikely that you'll all come up with the same thing.

There's still time to send us your most successful pieces from this month! Get them to us and we'll put 'em up on the blog. Even if you can't get them to us in time for the May issue of our zine, we're going to keep the poems coming a few times a week and we'll use those in subsequent issues! Email us at: