Word Prompt: Song | Story Prompt: from the book “Fathoms: The World in the Whale” by Rebecca Giggs

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“The English writer Heathcote Williams believed whales were capable of conveying more than information to others of their species; he argued the animals could articulate “a sense of the unknown.” I feel justified consulting a poet like Williams because of something else: the work of a handful of naturalists and bioacousticians that suggests cetaceans might deploy a kind of “picture language” and that their missives are “holosonic”. The implication is that what a cetacean communicates arises from where its sounds are projected to — where those sounds exist in three-dimensional, aquatic space — instead of how sounds, syllables, enchain together sequentially, across time, as with most human sentences. A whale sound might mean something different if it is projected down along the seabed, instead of near to the rumpled underside of a wave. Its loudness or quietness (the next-to-ness of its projection) may also carry a connotation, making the matter of whether “phrases” occur in proximity close to, or far from, the singer’s body, an additional source of nuance.

Imagine if what a word denoted depended not only on how that word was spelled, how it sounded, and whether it was whispered or whether it was yelled, but also where on the page it was placed.

Don’t we know that form already, reader? Don’t we call it a poem?”

***

In honour of Earth Day, I’ve been reading a lot about the different songs in nature. Perhaps it’s not Earth Day specifically but has more to do with my needing to read more stories that include beauty and hope. In any case, I can usually count on finding these positive attributes in stories of nature. This is true in spite of what we as a species have been doing to our natural world, and the climate crisis that faces us.

My days lately have been spent listening to bird song, and anticipating the chorus of spring peepers. Listening to the roar and cascade of the rapids on the swollen spring river. Even insect buzz is welcomed, knowing we rely on bugs to help with the pollination of plants, including the food we eat. Thinking of these sounds as “song”, and even as “poetry”, brings me a sense of connection and joy.

Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.

Leave a Reply