Alyse Knorr: Sonic Symphonies

From its very earliest days, literature was always meant to be sung. The great epics, tales of the troubadours, and lyric love poems of ancient days were all intended to be lavished for their rich sounds, not read silently on a page. The Sonic Symphonies class, intended for writers of any genre and any level, will arm students with a knowledge of the tools and techniques to make their writing truly sing.

Have you ever wondered how to make your writing “flow” better, or just “sound nicer”? Do you enjoy listening to music or reading your work (or that of others) out loud? Do you enjoy a good tongue twister or a nursery rhyme? Have you ever been devastated by a line you heard a writer read aloud at a presentation of their work? At the heart of all of these experiences is the age-old art of sonics. By learning the terms, techniques, and tools that writers use to make their work sound beautiful, you can harness the power of a seemingly ineffable skill.

Students will finish Sonic Symphonies with an arsenal of practice techniques, terminology, and insider knowledge on sound in writing, and with the ability to draft and revise with greater attention to sound. Together, we will explore questions such as: How and why should we pay attention to sound? What tools do writers have to create sound? How do our techniques change depending on the genre? What are the best ways to practice and hone our skills with sound throughout our career? At what point in the writing process should one consider sound?

The methods of course delivery for Sonic Symphonies will include discussion of examples by some of the best wordsmiths in history, introduction of terminology and techniques, in-class writing exercises such as sound chain construction, homophonic translation (we’ll “translate” languages you don’t know, and even birdsong, into English!), brief workshopping, sharing of work, and revising for sound. We will draft new work and, if the student has old work that they’d like to sound better, revise old work.

Course content will begin with the roots of our English language, stretching back thousands of years, to uncover why it sounds the way it does. We will then study a vast array of rhyme types and how to practically use them in your writing, including: assonance, consonance, alliteration, end rhyme, internal rhyme, eye rhyme, and masculine/feminine rhyme; as well as a brief overview of meter—the attention to syllabic stresses that makes greats like Milton and Shakespeare so memorable! We’ll also explore forms meant to hone your sound play, such as the flash fiction story, lyric essay memoir, sonnet, pantoum, villanelle, ballad, and slam poetry. After nights discussing everything from syntax to onomatopoeia to vowel and consonant scales and everything in between, you’ll leave this class humming and your writing will burst with gorgeous lyricism. I hope you’ll join me for this journey into one of the most important qualities of good writing—see you soon!

The Sonic Symphonies class runs in Anchorage on October 6, 13, 20, and 27 from 8-10pm at 161 E. 1st Ave., Door 15 (Alaska Humanities Forum). Register at 49 Writers website.

Alyse Knorr has taught creative writing to individuals ages 8 to 80, of all levels and all genres, and is passionate about bringing out the best in her students. As a poet, she extremely sound-focused and spent three years studying meter, rhyme, and syntax while earning her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree from George Mason University. She currently teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is finishing up her fifth book.

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