poems of relocation

as bryan and i prepare for our 6th move in 7 years (my 5th different state to live in!), and i pull out the packing tape and box things up room by room, and i think about all those past moves. how easy it was to pack and move to boston, just us two and the car full of stuff we could’ve left behind. how difficult it was to move to the kentucky farmhouse, so pregnant and wanting so badly to have a more permanent place to call home.

i’ve not found many poems on the subject, but i’ve written many on relocating, moving, digging up roots from one home to plant another. moving can be emotional and difficult–changing so much of your day to day, everything about your day to day, from where you sleep to who you see at the grocery store. its also exciting–the new opportunity, all the possibility, not knowing, exactly, what your new life will be like.

This is a poem, found in Keeping Me Still, that I wrote around 2009 i think, when moving from tennessee to massachusetts:

Moving North

We learn an empty house,
the look of a room as a cavity
to be filled. We learn to portion
and take everything to keep,
in labeled boxes that make
angles and a jigsaw fit.

In the story, the sisters cut portions
from their feet, to fit
the shoe. The prince knew
when the blood seeped
over the bridge of the foot,
down the pointed heel.

Cushion wedding
dishes with winter
sweaters, cradle picture frames
with newspaper, perfumes
with plastic bags.

Nothing will break.
It will all fit.

In the Smokies, vacationing
and young, we ate
at a catfish place where you
catch and kill from a pool.

Walking in, my sister’s shoe
(She was walking in
my shoes, that did not fit) fell
in the water. My sisters
held my heels, and I reached,

belly in the slime of the concrete bank,
and I pulled her shoe from the waters.

The boxes shift in the back.
The rear window, obscured.
The sun, obscured by clouds
rolling in from the North.
from Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing)


what are some of your favorite poems about moving, relocation, a new home?

The Marriage of Text and Tune

Today is going to be a little different.  After a brief “how to worship God with our writing” exercise (song lyrics), I will be mainly exploring a way to take that writing a step further (setting it to pre-existing music).

In the last three posts, I introduced three different ideas to explore for possible song lyrics.  Today, I challenge you to implement one of these and write a song, but first it would be a good idea to brush up on meter.

For those of you who have never written lyrics before (and especially for those of you who don’t know anything about music theory), I would suggest sticking to an iambic (common meter), iambic (long meter), or iambic (short meter).

Once you are satisfied with your lyrics, choose a tune from a hymnal you have lying around for the tune.  You don’t have a hymnal?  Go ask your pastor or music minister, chances are you will walk away with 3 or 4 different hymnals from the boxes and boxes of them your church has in storage.

In the back of the hymnal are several indexes listed the hymns by author, title, tune title, and tune meter (plus or minus one or two other criteria depending on the hymnal).  When you finish your lyrics, start looking through the tune meter index to find all of the tunes listed with the meter you chose.  Try singing your song to a few familiar and a few unfamiliar tunes (if you can’t read music, type in the hymn name into www.nethymnal.org to listen to a midi version).

It is very important to find a tune that matches the lyrics well.  You have a specific feel in mind when writing the lyrics, so you should find a tune that best gets that feel across.  One example I like use a lot is Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.  This link takes you to see the lyrics and hear my favorite tune for it: EBENEZER.  In 1991, however, the Baptist hymnal decided to change the tune from EBENEZER to HARRIS.  In 2008, the Baptist hymnal kept the HARRIS tune.

In my opinion, switching from EBENEZER to HARRIS was a huge travesty.  First of all, the lyrics to the song are filled with water imagery, and the rhythm of the tune EBENEZER feels like waves crashing on the shore.  The HARRIS tune, however, feels like a pub song.  It seems to me that the editors of the 1991 Baptist hymnal wanted to shy away from tunes in minor keys, so this song was given a tune that made it feel more upbeat and “happy”.  What it loses, though, with this is change is a proper marriage of tune and text.

When you are selecting your tune, do not think about which tune makes you feel happiest.  Think about which tune carries the same message that your lyrics carry.  Only then will a song truly work to speak the message it was meant to speak.

31  Days