Music is often what people turn to when looking for hope, inspiration, or a way to capture their most passionate feelings. From 19th century authors to Instapoets, writers are no different: they have been fascinated by writing poems about the power of music throughout the decades. Poems about music stand as testaments to how it has served as a savior, a bringer of joy, and the bearer of memories.
Here are fifteen music poems that describe the magic and complete power of music.
1. “She Sang My Soul Back Together” by Cleo Wade
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I barely have a single memory from my childhood that doesn’t have the music of #ArethaFranklin playing in our house. Her Live At Fillmore West Album has been my companion through every heartbreak, rejection, and growing pain I have ever experienced. We rarely get a chance to thank our heroes in person but when we pass on their stories, their talents, and their gifts to the next generations, we are able to honor their spirit and contributions to the human experience. I plan on doing that. It is the least I can do after all her music has done for me. Rest in power Aretha Franklin, The Queen Of Soul.
2. “Latin & Soul” by Victor Hernandez Cruz
a trombone speaking to you
a piano is trying to break a molecule
is trying to lift the stage into orbit
around the red spotlights
the shadows of dancers
dancers they are dancing falling
out that space made for dancing
they should dance
on the tables they should
dance inside of their drinks
they should dance on the
ceiling they should dance/dance
we are traveling
where are we going
if we only knew
with this rhythm with
this banging with fire
with this all this O
my god i wonder where are
sink into a room full of laughter
full of happiness full of life
are clapping their hands
stomping their feet
hold back them tears
all those sentimental stories
cooked uptown if you can hold it for after
we are going
beyond these wooden tables
beyond these red lights
beyond these rugs & paper
walls beyond way past
i mean way past them clouds
over the buildings over the
rivers over towns over cities
like on rails but faster like
a train but smoother
away past stars
bursting with drums.
a sudden misunderstanding
full of grayness
a body thru a store window
a hand reaching
into the back
a piano is talking to you
thru all this
why don’t you answer it.
3. “Things I Strongly Believe In” by Rudy Francisco
4. “Piano” by Dan Howell
Her wattled fingers can’t
stroke the keys with much
grace or assurance anymore,
and the tempo is always
rubato, halting, but still
that sound—notes quivering
and clear in their singularity,
filing down the hallway—
aches with pure intention, the
melody somehow prettier
as a remnant than
whatever it used to be.
5. “Music when Soft Voices Die (TO –)” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
6. “Tell Me How the World Ends” by Amanda Torroni
7. “A Poem in which I Try to Express My Glee at the Music My Friend Has Given Me” by Ross Gay
—for Patrick Rosal
Because I must not
get up to throw down in a café in the Midwest,
I hold something like a clownfaced herd
of bareback and winged elephants
stomping in my chest,
I hold a thousand
kites in a field loosed from their tethers
at once, I feel
my skeleton losing track
somewhat of the science I’ve made of tamp,
feel it rising up shriek and groove,
rising up a river guzzling a monsoon,
not to mention the butterflies
of the loins, the hummingbirds
of the loins, the thousand
dromedaries of the loins, oh body
of sunburst, body
of larkspur and honeysuckle and honeysuccor
bloom, body of treetop holler,
oh lightspeed body
of gasp and systole, the mandible’s ramble,
the clavicle swoon, the spine’s
trillion teeth oh, drift
of hip oh, trill of ribs,
oh synaptic clamor and juggernaut
swell oh gutracket
blastoff and sugartongue
syntax oh throb and pulse and rivulet
swing and glottal thing
and kick-start heart and heel-toe heart
ooh ooh ooh a bullfight
where the bull might
take flight and win!
8. “At Last” by Lang Leav
9. “The Everyday Enchantment of Music” by Mark Strand
A rough sound was polished until it became a smoother sound, which was polished until it became music. Then the music was polished until it became the memory of a night in Venice when tears of the sea fell from the Bridge of Sighs, which in turn was polished until it ceased to be and in its place stood the empty home of a heart in trouble. Then suddenly there was sun and the music came back and traffic was moving and off in the distance, at the edge of the city, a long line of clouds appeared, and there was thunder, which, however menacing, would become music, and the memory of what happened after Venice would begin, and what happened after the home of the troubled heart broke in two would also begin.
10. “A Poem for Ella Fitzgerald” by Sonia Sanchez
when she came on the stage, this Ella
there were rumors of hurricanes and
over the rooftops of concert stages
the moon turned red in the sky,
it was Ella, Ella.
queen Ella had come
and words spilled out
leaving a trail of witnesses smiling
amen—amen—a woman—a woman.
this three agèd woman
nightingales in her throat
and squads of horns came out
to greet her.
streams of violins and pianos
splashed their welcome
and our stained glass silences
our braided spaces
said who’s that coming?
who’s that knocking at the door?
whose voice lingers on
that stage gone mad with
perdido. perdido. perdido.
i lost my heart in toledooooooo.
whose voice is climbing
up this morning chimney
smoking with life
carrying her basket of words
a tisket a tasket
my little yellow
basket—i wrote a
letter to my mom and
on the way i dropped it—
was it red…no no no no
was it green…no no no no
was it blue…no no no no
just a little yellow
voice rescuing razor thin lyrics
from hopscotching dreams.
we first watched her navigating
an apollo stage amid high-stepping
we watched her watching us
shiny and pure woman
sugar and spice woman
her voice a nun’s whisper
her voice pouring out
guitar thickened blues,
her voice a faraway horn
questioning the wind,
and she became Ella,
first lady of tongues
Ella cruising our veins
voice walking on water
crossed in prayer,
she became holy
a thousand sermons
concealed in her bones
as she raised them in a
carrying our sighs into
this voice, chasing the
this Ella-tonian voice soft
like four layers of lace.
when i die Ella
tell the whole joint
please, please don’t talk
about me when i’m gone…
i remember waiting one nite for her appearance
audience impatient at the lateness
i remember it was april
and the flowers ran yellow
the sun downpoured yellow butterflies
and the day was yellow and silent
all of spring held us
in a single drop of blood.
when she appeared on stage
she became Nut arching over us
feet and hands placed on the stage
music flowing from her breasts
she swallowed the sun
sang confessions from the evening stars
made earth divulge her secrets
gave birth to skies in her song
remade the insistent air
and we became anointed found
inside her bop
bop bop dowa
bop bop doowaaa
bop bop dooooowaaaa
Lady. Lady. Lady.
be good. be good
to you. to us all
cuz we just some lonesome babes
in the woods
hey lady. sweetellalady
Lady. Lady. Lady. be gooooood
ELLA ELLA ELLALADY
11. “#2518” by Tyler Knott Gregson
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Typewriter Series #2518 by Tyler Knott Gregson . Remember, again, there is help if you need it. Always. 1-800-273-8255. Reach out. I know I am a broken record, but at least my song is true. Be here. For us. . Text for Tired Eyes: . To be there to see it, the wings of geese in the lightlessness, the blur of hummingbirds roaring softly on summer porches, the earthquake of thunder on evenings where you swear dusk will never fade out. Be for this, keep being, for there is music in all this, quietly it plays, almost inaudible, but the melody remains, be for this, and lend yourself to the perfect cacophony. . . -Tyler Knott Gregson-
12. “The Guitar” by Federico Garcia Lorca
The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
The weeping of the guitar
to silence it.
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.
13. “Choir” by William Nu’utupu Giles
(Trigger warning: Suicide.)
14. “Elegy” by Anne Stevenson
Whenever my father was left with nothing to do —
waiting for someone to ‘get ready’,
or facing the gap between graduate seminars
and dull after-suppers in his study
grading papers or writing a review —
he played the piano.
I think of him packing his lifespan
carefully, like a good leather briefcase,
each irritating chore wrapped in floating passages
for the left hand and right hand
by Chopin or difficult Schumann;
nothing inside it ever rattled loose.
Not rationalism, though you could cut your tongue
on the blade of his reasonable logic.
Only at the piano did he become
the bowed, reverent, wholly absorbed Romantic.
The theme of his heroic, unfinished piano sonata
could have been Brahms.
Boredom, or what he disapproved of as
‘sitting around with your mouth open’
oddly pursued him. He had small stamina.
Whenever he succumbed to bouts of winter bronchitis,
the house sank a little into its snowed-up garden,
missing its musical swim-bladder.
None of this suggests how natural he was.
For years I thought fathers played the piano
just as dogs barked and babies grew.
We children ran in and out of the house,
taking for granted that the ‘Trout’ or E flat Major Impromptu
would be rippling around us.
For him, I think, playing was solo flying, a bliss
of removal, of being alone.
Not happily always; never an escape,
for he was affectionate, and the household hum
he pretended to find trivial or ridiculous
daily sustained him.
When he talked about music, it was never
of the lachrimae rerum
that trembled from his drawn-out phrasing
as raindrops phrase themselves along a wire;
no, he defended movable doh or explained the amazing
physics of the octave.
We’d come in from school and find him
cross-legged on the jungle of the floor,
guts from one of his Steinways strewn about him.
He always got the pieces back in place.
I remember the yellow covers of Schirmer’s Editions
and the bound Peters Editions in the bookcase.
When he defected to the cello in later years
Grandmother, in excrucio, mildly exclaimed,
‘Wasn’t it lovely when Steve liked to play the piano.’
Now I’m the grandmother listening to Steve at the piano.
Lightly, in strains from Brahms-Haydn variations,
his audible image returns to my humming ears.
15. “Tamara’s Opus” by Joshua Bennett
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