Cynghanedd is a Welsh word that means something like “harmony” or “chiming.” Welsh poetry is filled with complicated verse forms that English-language poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dylan Thomas have used to inspire their own soundscapes. This week’s poet uses the concept of cynghanedd to build his poem, and he also writes after Brueghel’s painting “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” which you can look up if you want to see it.

Cynghanedd After Brueghel

By Philip Carlsen

Icarus

carouses

across

a crass

indifferent sky—

and if he rants? cries?

Stunned bird—molting,

sunburnt, melting

whiskered father’s

wax and feathers—

Noon nears.

No one hears.

The brig all rigged

in Brueghel’s ragged

world,

where old

flotsam, birds,

flies in amber,

ploughman’s horses,

plums and houses,

far red,

furrowed

fields,

folds

of natal sea

have naught to say.

_____________

Each couplet above uses the same central consonants in the first and second lines though the vowels change. The effect is that we hear the same sounds repeated with variations, like a piece of music.

A composer and cellist, Philip Carlsen taught music at the University of Maine at Farmington from 1982 to 2015. His compositions have been performed frequently in Maine, as well as at New York’s Town Hall and the Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden, at the Kennedy Center, and national conferences of the College Music Society and the Society of Composers. He has had poems published in Off the Coast, The Tower Journal, and the Found Poetry Review. He lives in South Portland.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Philip Carlsen. It appears here by permission of the author.

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