Interview with Charles Barasch, poet, linguistics instructor, crossword puzzle writer, and author of Dreams of the Presidents. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.
Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired in part by the interview you heard today. Charlie Barasch said that when he has trouble writing, he sometimes sets his poetry aside and turns to music. His own instrument is the guitar, and he’ll spend time singing and playing songs in order to jumpstart his brain and motivate the words to flow once more.
Oliver Sacks, in the book Musicophilia, writes: "Given the obvious similarities between music and language, it is not surprising that there has been a running debate for more than two hundred years as to whether they evolved in tandem or independently—and if the latter, which came first." He also says: "We humans are a musical species no less than a linguistic one. This takes many forms. All of us (with very few exceptions) can perceive music, perceive tones, timbre, pitch, intervals, melodic contours, harmony, and (perhaps most elementally), rhythm."
Perhaps this explains why, when Charlie Barasch takes up his guitar, he’s able to break through the occasional obstacle of writer’s block and free up his creative capacity to write poems.
Here is your assignment for the week. If you’re stuck in you work or unable to start writing, stand up out of you chair, close your eyes, and sing a song. Not all of us can play the guitar, but most people can pick up the nearest object, tap it with a pencil, and sing a favorite tune by Sinatra, the Clash, the Talking Heads, Van Morrison, Tommy Dorsey. If you’re so moved, dance around the room. Don’t feel silly. Do just exactly what you might enjoy, musically, all by yourself, without being told by an inner critic to stop. Play Once In Love With Amy on the piano. Hum Gershwin. Whistle Mozart. Or just clap your hands for a while, in a rhythm that is recognizable or somehow moving just to you. Then return to your work and see what might have changed since that moment when you turned to music for help. Write for at least half an hour and see if you’ve made progress. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School students)