Poetry, Poetry by Mandy Webster

How do you spell that sound?

Cover of "A Poetry Handbook"
Cover of A Poetry Handbook

Is it hot out this week, or what? I wrote another poem for my poetry class and was thinking I’d have to hang on to it for a few months since it has a summery feel to it. But with this weather, I’m thinking, “Why not share it now?”

I got the idea for this poem one morning while out on my morning walk. Our reading for the week, from Mary Oliver‘s A Poetry Handbook, was focused on sound. So, I was trying to decide how to start writing a sound poem.

While mulling this over, I began to think about the challenge of spelling out sounds without using the same old boring cliches. You know, “Boom!” “POW!” “THWACK!” That kind of thing.

So, I started to really pay attention to the various sounds around me and tried to image how I would spell them — without using the standard spellings. This was the result:

How Do You Spell That Sound?

How do you spell the sound
of fireworks
booming in the sky?
POOM, THWIFF, Crackle, Shhhheeeeeee.
That’s how I’d spell that sound.

How do you spell the sound
of dog tags
Tinkling as a puppy pounces?
Jingle, Tingle, tinkle, tee.
That’s how I’d spell that sound.

How do you spell the sound
of a flag
whipping at its post?
Twick, thack, pick, ack.
That’s how I’d spell that sound.

How do you spell the sound
of warm wind
murmuring through high leaves?
Whisper, wasper, fuss, shush
That’s how I’d spell that sound.

How do you spell the sound
of seed pods
pinched between two fingers?
Crick, splinter, crackle, spack.
That’s how I’d spell that sound.

How do you spell the sound
of clouds
scudding ‘cross the sky?
Or of whispy dandelions
floating by…

Sssshhh.
Can you hear it?
How would you spell that sound?

~By Amanda L. Webster

This and other poems are now available in my new book, Loosely Collected: A Book of Poems.

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16 thoughts on “How do you spell that sound?”

  1. I love this image:
    “How do you spell the sound
    of clouds
    scudding ‘cross the sky?
    Or of whispy dandelions
    floating by…”

    My nine year old daughter was asked by their teacher to memorize Wordsworth’s “I wander’d lonely as a cloud” – and I told her pretty much what you’re telling your students as I guided her through the process of relishing Wordsworth’s poetry – imagine yourself as the cloud wandering past, looking at those golden daffodils from high up above. It made her taste the poetry differently somehow. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I have looked at books on poetry. I have bought books on poetry. I have read a lot of poetry. I don’t subscribe to the idea of format. I write what I feel. Some like to write by the rules. I toss them out. Does that make me a rogue poet? I don’t know. A lot of people like my poetry. I am sure an equal number don’t. But I like what you wrote above.

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