Finding the right words

One of the things I didn’t have much time to do while I was doing my music degree was write music.

The majority of my composing so far has been choral work. It isn’t a particularly vast majority, a handful of songs and anthems really. Sometime soon I’ll get more of it up on a website.

Usually, I find a text that, on some level, seems to speak to me, and then set it, and then it sits in a drawer until I get it onto the computer, and then it doesn’t get any further (really need to get that website sorted). But sometimes I have a specific occasion or person to write for, and need to find the right words.

At that point I really struggle. My knowledge of English poetry, particularly English poetry that is in the public domain, is rather poor. There’s an awful lot of it to get through and I’ll never manage to read it all. At one time I might have written the words myself, but it’s been a long time since I wrote any poetry and I don’t think I would be able to write something acceptable these days.

I’m dealing with this problem now. I keep going to the few poetry books I have and reading through them, searching for the right poem. The result? I bookmark tens or hundreds of pages as things I’d like to set someday but none of what I’ve found is appropriate for this particular project.

I think I probably need to do some sort of survey course in English poetry, or even choose a century per month and use my commuting time to get familiar with the major poets.

In the meantime, if you could have one text set as a choral work, what would it be?

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