It takes a Villanelle

Every poet must write at least one villanelle. It's a rule.

Nothing beats a cool drink and a villanelle on a steamy, sultry July afternoon. The drink can be random but the poem must be a villanelle. The haunting quality, the repetitions, the melodic story make for satisfying reading  poolside. Here’s the mark of the villanelle: the repetition of the first and third lines throughout the poem. The first line is repeated as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, and as the next-to-the-last line of the final quatrain. The third line is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas, and as the last line of the concluding quatrain (the last line of the poem). Much more fun to read than to write. There are some famous villanelles out there such as “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas;  “The Art of Losing” by Elizabeth Bishop; “The Home on the Hill” by Edward Arlington Robinson; “Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath.

Cooling villanelles

Here’s a famous villanelle:

The Waking
-Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light take the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air
And lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Not so famous villanelle:

Ending
-ME Green

I pick quarrels to ease his leaving
Can’t bear to see things eye to eye
Anger balms the ache of grieving.

I have trouble in believing
That he’ll soon become a passerby
I pick quarrels to ease his leaving.

The words of experts, quite deceiving
That we can part as friends-a lie.
Anger balms the ache of grieving.

Since this act’s of his conceiving
I am irked that he should cry
I pick quarrels to ease his leaving.

He should gloat that he’s achieving
Freedom from longstanding ties
Anger balms the ache of grieving.

Words, like stones, I keep on heaving
What I really want to know is why?
I pick quarrels to ease his leaving.
Anger balms the ache of grieving.

A Villanelle for Zach’s Parents
-ME Green

If Zachary would only sleep.
They don’t ask much.
Life would be so very sweet.

Though Zach won’t yet perform this feat;
He gentles to their touch,
If only Zach would learn to sleep

Three hours at a stretch complete!
The pacifier is their crutch
Life is sometimes bitter-sweet.

Maybe they should count some sheep.
They’ve given him a toy to clutch,
If Zachary would only sleep.

His parents are about to weep.
He’s been swaddled, burped and such-
Life could be so sweet.

A long nap would be a treat.
Why is he being such a grouch?
If Zachary would deign to sleep,
Life would be extremely sweet.

 


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Categories: wisdom

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