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Posts tagged ‘Villanelle’

Capturing the Elusive Villanelle

Garden of the Gods, Colorado. © Graf 2006

Maybe “deconstructing” is a better word for what follows.

I love a well-constructed, nuance-laden, tension-building poem — especially one with lines or phrases repeated, each time expanding on the underlying theme. When it works, it really works. When I dabble in a structured form, I need to take it apart and put it back together in a way that makes sense to me.

Over the years, I created my own versions of “cheat sheets” — today they are usually called “templates” — for a variety of poetic forms, when it was important to have a set number of syllables or sounds per line;  control the number of lines in each stanza, especially if the stanzas are not constructed the same — like the villanelle. I’ve used them with haikus, tankas, ghazels, alternating voice layout, and for song lyrics — especially useful to bridge beats, where you want to stretch out a sound.

My Villanelle template and construction process are simpler than it appears at first glance.  I:

1. Took as my guide the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, which Margaret used when she introduced the form.

2. Identified the rhyme pattern alongside each line, as Margaret explained. To make it easier, I highlighted the first line and each repetition that followed, then used a different color highlighter, and did the same for the third line. Since the only other rhyme was with line 2, I highlighted the last word in each of the “B/b” lines (below is a portion)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)


… and so on.

Then, I:

3. Counted the number of syllables per line (ten); the number stanzas and lines per stanza (five stanzas of three lines each (tercets), plus one stanza of four lines (a quatrain)); the total number of lines I needed, including a blank line between stanzas (24 lines total)

Next step was to write my first three lines, using the right number of syllables or sounds, and the right pattern, knowing that the first and third lines would be repeated several times in the poem:

   We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.

This gave me the shape of the form. Time to do the template. I:

4. Created a table with eleven columns across (one for each of the ten syllables needed in each line, PLUS a first column with the rhyme pattern), and 24 rows (for each filled and blank line in the poem)

5. Shaded in the rows that were stanza breaks (rows 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20; I didn’t create a column to number the rows — just counted down)

6. Filled in each of the first three rows, one syllable per each cell across the table, in columns 2 – 11, with my first tercet.

7. went back to column one, and, with my trusty Thomas poem, wrote in what the rhyme pattern needed to be.

8. filled in on my template where lines one and three were repeated

9. really cheated on the next step! I wrote the sound I needed to repeat (in parentheses) in the last column of each line. Yes, I’ve creatively split words as I sounded them for the cells.

… (the complete template is at the end of this post)

10. then came up with a bunch of words that rhymed with each of the endings of the two lines.

A1 and A3:  do/ taboo (DO) — view, new, clue, avenue, cue, due
B1: accident (DENT) — amazement, evident, coincident, bent, went, event, dent, sent

Then the creative process really started:

11. I wrote the poem from the last stanza forward — I knew how it started; that was already written. I decided how I wanted it to end, and, using the list of “sound alike” words, figured how to end each of the lines in the quatrain.

12. Worked my way through the poem, looking at the rhyming words I’d come up with, and moved them around.

13. wrote lines, juggled them from tercet to tercet, until they made sense to me.

And, voila! Though this is still a work in progress, you can see how each step shaped this draft of the poem’s cadence, flow, rhythm, content, and context. Now the work begins, to hone it into a sharp, complete story. Like Mary’s poem, my subject is dark. I hope to capture the same sense as hers did.

Ever Thus
by Michele M. Graf

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do;
paths drag us into, not by accident,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

You may argue with me, bellow your view;
we both know how those branches get so bent:
we claim our fear and ghosts by what we do.

Mourn the loss, the lack of hope for the new
words to stop needless blood so poorly spent.
Territory steep in our deep taboo.

Paint it, gloss it, but you can’t hide the hue
of euphemism masking what is meant.
We claim our fear and ghosts by what we do

when we rant, and rave, call it just miscue,
no longer valid — such self-evident
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Fate enters laughing when it all comes due.
Can how its end not be coincident?
We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Mary’s Villanelle: Dark Days

I love the Villanelle. It’s very musical, with the rhyme and rhythm, and the repeating lines. When done right, it really rolls off the tongue when read aloud. My first two Villanelles are not in classic form with iambic pentameter. That added an additional challenge this time around. I also went a little darker than the previous Muselings… My mind has been on The Secret World, a modern day MMO of myths, legends, and conspiracies. So that is where I took my inspiration.

wendigo_C2

wendigo_C2 (Photo credit: doctorserone)

Dark Days 

She grips her sword, the battlefield looks stark,
almost too late to set the world aright;
Hold ground, dig deep, the days are getting dark.

A flock of ravens flies through the themepark,
abandoned structures gleaming in moonlight.
She grips her sword, the battlefield looks stark.

Filth clinging like a permanent birthmark,
wendigo crouches just within their sight–
hold ground, dig deep, the days are getting dark.

Her two companions circle like a shark–
once enemies, they now combine their might–
she grips her sword, the battlefield looks stark.

The monster takes first blood: claws tears a mark
through one man’s side, his face goes deathly white.
Hold ground, dig deep, the days are getting dark.

Wendigo falters at a shotgun’s bark
and blade moves in to finish off the fight.
She grips her sword, the battlefield looks stark;
Hold ground, dig deep, the days are getting dark.

Lin’s Focus on Villanelle

Cupid Cupid weather vane Pentlow, Essex.

Cupid Cupid weather vane Pentlow, Essex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is my first villanelle,  from 2009. I found it very interesting and challenging to work in a rhymed form instead of my usual free verse.  It was also a stretch to work to  a rhyming pattern, but I managed it. I hope to see some of your villanelles posted here!

Love’s Progress

– A villanelle-

By

Lin Neiswender

Love takes wing and flies away
Shy Cupid with arrows adrift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

Blushing glances longings betray
Pulses beating now more swift
Love takes wing and flies away

Stem by stem a sweet bouquet
Rose and lilac scents do lift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

Soft low voices fears allay
Giving fear a mere short shrift
Love takes wing and flies away

New lover’s whisper, a tender play
Hearts will meet then souls uplift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

One kiss may give passion sway
A final tender parting gift
Love takes wing and flies away
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

©2009 Lin Neiswender

Previously published in Love and Other Passions, 2012

Focus on Form: Villanelle

Welcome to Focus on Form. For the next three weeks, each of us Muselings will be writing a poem in the same form and sharing it here on the blog. 

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Form

A villanelle is a 19th century form was originally a song/dance sung by a troubadour. The modern form developed in the 19th century.

Rules

A Villanelle is a a nineteen line poem consisting of five tercets and a concluding quatrain. It contains only two rhymes. The first and third line of each of the tercets and the first and final two lines of the concluding quatrain form one, and the middle lines of the tercets and the second line of the quatrain form the second.  In addition, the first and third lines of the first tercet are refrains. Thus. let A1, B1 A2 be the first tercet, and a small a or b indicate a line that rhymes with either the A lines or the B line, the poem lays out as:

A1, B1, A2    a3, b2, A1    a4, b3,A2    a4,b4,A1   a5,b5,A3    ,b5,A1,A2

In addition to the rhymes and the refrain,  in a classic villanelle, the lines themselves should be in iambic pentameter and the repeated lines be repeated without variation.

Tip: pay careful attention to the first stanza, and especially to the end words, as you will need to find a goodly number of rhymes for them.

Examples

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


One Art
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Writeit!) like disaster.

My own try:

This poem comes from Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD challenge for April 18th: take a regional cuisine and make it the title of the poem

Southern Fried Chicken

A chicken fried in oil’s a wondrous thing
so spicy, crispy, crunchy with a golden crust
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

Add salt, paprika for that special zing.
A pinch of jalapeno is a must.
A chicken fried in oil’s a wondrous thing
https://poeticmuselings.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
The spicy pepper adds a bit of bling
to penetrate the chicken’s flesh.  I trust
you’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

The oil must be hot so you can bring
the crust to crispness. As we have discussed,
a chicken fried in oil’s a wondrous thing

Keep clear of boiling oil. It will sting.
If oil becomes too hot it may combust.
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

At last the chicken’s ready, and you spring
to action, find the flavor most robust.
A chicken fried in oil’s a wondrous thing
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

Your Turn

Now I open it up to you. I welcome any feedback on my poem, as long as it is constructive and not destructive. Let’s help each other improve.

I’d love to see your own attempts at the form as well. You can post them in the comments here, or on future posts, or link to your poem if it’s on a separate site.

Southern Fried Chicken

A chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing
so spicy, crispy, crunchy with a golden crust
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

Add salt, paprika for that special zing.
A pinch of jalapeno is a must.
A chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing

The spicy pepper adds a bit of bling
to penetrate the chicken’s flesh.  I trust
you’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

The oil must be hot so you can bring
the crust to crispness. As we have discussed,
a chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing

Keep clear of boiling oil. It will sting.
If oil becomes too hot it may combust.
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

At last the chicken’s ready, and you spring
to action, find the flavor most robust.
A chicken fried in oil’s a wonderous thing
You’ll take a bite. Your mouth will want to sing.

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