By Sage Cohen
Songs can take hold of us and refuse to let go. I have been taken hostage for days, years, decades by some of my favorites. I’ll bet you have, too. What do songs do that speaks so directly to us and moves us so deeply?
In songs, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition typically work together to deliver messages in a way that we respond to physically and emotionally-so much so that hearing a song can spin us back to the time and place of our first hearing it-resurfacing smells, feelings, even people who we might not otherwise have remembered. It seems, then, that the songs we love somehow plug into our nervous systems, entangling themselves in our memories. Because songs are poems set to music, we have the same opportunities to tickle people down to their foundations with the rhymes, rhythms, and repetitions we choose in our poems.
Modeled on song lyrics, write a poem that has end rhymes, similar syllable-count lines, and possibly even a recurring chorus. Use the lyrics of any songwriter you admire as your example-and don’t be shy about imitating.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University and teaches the email class Poetry for the People.