Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Melding Music and Memory

by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 contributor Korena Di Roma Howley

With "A Soundtrack for Early Motherhood," I didn't set out to write something that could be called mixed genre, but whatever I managed to put on the page ultimately came together like the days themselves--out of bits and pieces of light, weather, movement, and memory.

New to motherhood and new to Montana, I was also newly capable of the kind of stillness and repetition that those early months demand and that would, looking back, serve as a sort of trial for living in the world in 2020. After all, in ordinary times parents of newborns are often struck by the sudden isolation that comes with needing to shield the vulnerable from all that's toxic and transmittable.

During those days, I must have played Mark Knopfler's Princess Bride score a hundred times, it being the only album that both lulled my infant to sleep without fail and stood up to that level of repeat listening. Uncoupled from the wider exuberance of the movie, many of the songs--with their soaring synth instrumentals and plucked guitar accompaniment--have a worldly flair that's overlaid with mystery and melancholy.

Initially, the music made me think of the future, of a time when I might hear it and be transported to our first full winter in Montana, when my son still fell asleep in my arms and the daylight shifted noticeably, hour by hour. I wanted my future self to cast her mind back to my present and describe what she saw. 

But the songs kept pulling me into the past, and particularly to a school year in the early nineties that somehow managed to assert itself above all the others. As I listened, images and impressions from that year would surface through the dense commotion of decades. Wide library tables stenciled with slivers of tropical sunlight. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" read aloud. The opening theme of National Geographic Explorer and the ripples of excitement that it sent through the last class of the day. So many moments to choose from, but the stars won out in the end.

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Korena Di Roma Howley writes about science, food, and travel for print and online publications. Her prose poem "Mary Is in the Marketplace" recently appeared in Unbroken Journal. You'll find her mixed genre work, "A Soundtrack for Early Motherhood," on pp. 126-127 of Bacopa Literary Review 2019.

$300 First Prize or $100 Second Prize in each of five genres

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