How I Learned to Play Violin and Write Poems at the Same Time

From ECO violinist and frequent blog contributor Anna Rose Welch

Growing up, I tried my hand at several hobbies. First, I tried gymnastics—but I failed to achieve a somersault. I moved on to horseback riding, but despite my great love of horses, I ended up spending each lesson tearfully asking my mom how much longer I had to stay on the horse. As an ice skater, I failed to master any method of stopping myself that didn’t involve crashing into a wall. I may have had potential as a swimmer—but, as it turned out, my brother kept sinking instead of floating, so my mother pulled us both out in order to spare him the embarrassment. My dreams of winning the Olympics and appearing on a Wheaties box vanished quickly thereafter.

The exceptions to this list of short-lived hobbies were violin and writing. I first delved into the literary world by writing short stories. In most of my stories, my brother and I were roughing it in the wild as fearless orphans — a fact my mother and father really appreciated.

They decided to enroll me in a young writers workshop at Gannon the summer between second and third grade. It was there at the ripe old age of 8 that I discovered a poem called “Early In The Morning” by Li Young Lee, which made me realize I desperately wanted to write poems.



Music became one of my primary influences when I began writing my own poems. I made it my goal to write poems that included as many musical references as possible. This lasted until my first college workshop when my mentor read my 6-page poem swelling with oboes, cellos, violins, and Love, and said, very nicely, that long poems weren’t quite for me. (My poems have since become much shorter, thanks to him.)

Even though music was a huge influence in terms of subject matter, it never really occurred to me that playing music andasq_4_295 writing poetry are quite similar. It took a lecture by the Alexander String Quartet to spell it out for me. During their performance of Beethoven, they demonstrated how musical phrases are like sentences in a poem. A musician can shape the phrase using different kinds of vibrato or bow techniques, just as a writer can affect the tone of a poem with his or her word choices, line breaks, or sentence structures.

I no longer write poems that are specifically about music or that include every instrument I can think of. But playing and listening to music is still a vital part of my writing process. I’ve listened to Bach’s partitas for solo violin and the molto adagio movement of Beethoven’s fifteenth string quartet many times while working on my writing.

Throughout the past year and a half since I graduated with my Masters degree in poetry, I’ve been organizing and reorganizing (times a thousand) my first poetry collection and submitting it to 1274259_526638414069583_524592426_ocontests. Should I be the winner of one of these contests, I would publish my first book. Continuing to play the violin and exploring the organization of symphonies in the ECO has no doubt helped me to better understand and organize my poems thematically. This past year has been a positive one in terms of publications and 1406657749137feedback from book contests. I’m excited to see where 2015 takes me, both poetically and musically.

Anna was just named to the list of the top 50 new poets of 2014 – read more here.

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