Welcome to the next installment of my “Behind the Poems” series. Check out more of these posts here.
This is another poem published in my alma mater’s literary journal, The Cypress Dome. It’s one of my earliest forays into acrostic poems and it set off my love for the format.
Calloused fingertips press against steel and nylon strings. They curl,
Hammer-on some notes, and let others sing a softer song. One, two,
One, two, three, four…The tempo pulses like a hammering heart.
Relax, press, pick, strum. I pluck each note with intent. Start
Down the frets, fingers slide, making a tinny squeal.
Swaying my body with the four-four beat I nod my head and
Tap my feet. The instrument’s curve and my lap fit one another
Readily, like lock and key. Vibrating strings buzz at my fingertips.
Up and down, up and down, my hand strokes the six lines,
Mesmerized, intoxicated, giving in. I’m letting the music play.
For those unfamiliar, an acrostic poem uses the letters of a word(s) as the first letter of each line to create a piece about the word(s) itself. How the poem relates to the chosen keyword(s) is open to interpretation by the poet.
Here, I wrote about the feeling of playing guitar. It’s been years now since I took lessons and played the instrument. But reading over this poem, I remember clearly the sense of harmony that overcomes me when I’m lost in the music.
I tend to stay away from most structured formats of poetry, as I feel restricted when I start to focus too much on elements like meter count and rhyme scheme. I often feel locked by these mechanisms. But something about an acrostic format feels like just enough restraint and challenge with the freedom to make the poem work as I need it.
In fact, the acrostic format to me feels the way music does. You can stay within the chord structure and hit the necessary notes, but the freedom comes in the texture you choose to convey those notes. While I may play or sing in D major, I decide if it will be a straight note or reverberate.
I chose the title “D Major” because that’s the key of my favorite song at the time, Good Charlotte’s “Let the Music Play.” It was such a favorite of mine that I even have a tattoo of it on my ankle. I think I fell in love with poetry because I already loved music. The two feel like cousins to me.