Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still playing with the Villanelle

More playing with the Villanelle form - I'm looking at the Sestina and maybe the Ballade next...(blame Stephen Fry)

While all the world around me hoons
And guzzles caffeinated drinks,
I take a nap most afternoons. 

The radio croons its ‘Junes and moons;’
My mind it gently sinks and sinks,
While all the world around me hoons.

Siestas are, for Spaniards, boons,
(Accompanied by long, sticky drinks) -
They take a nap most afternoons. 

But as a Kiwi, Culture’s tunes
Deflect away from forty winks
While all the world around me hoons.

Far healthier than taking prunes
Or dealing with love handle kinks
Is my quiet nap most afternoons. 

Busyness eventually wounds
And proves to be a faithless minx;
While all the world around me hoons
I take a nap most afternoons.  

The shape below is a graphical view of the Sestina....looks more complicated than it is!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Villanelle again

Still working on the Villanelle form; it's difficult but not impossible.  Difficult mostly because it's easy (as the following poem demonstrates) to keep to short thoughts without any great ongoing flow.  Anyway, this one is probably still a work in progress.   See the notes at the bottom for some explanations.

All Governments suck up to the rich
With tax loopholes by the score;
The fat aren’t found dead in a ditch.

Every two years a major bank glitch
With the underpaid caught in the maw;
All Governments suck up to the rich.

Spends with extravagant hiss and roar:
The fat aren’t found dead in a ditch.

Politicians make a strong pitch
For tobacco exemptions in law
All Governments suck up to the rich.

Here’s a somewhat unpleasant hitch:
Pepper spray in the Occupy war;
The fat aren’t found dead in a ditch.

I’m struggling to maintain my pitch:
The affluent versus the constant poor.
Governments suck up to the rich -
The fat aren’t found dead in a ditch. 

The pepper spray incident at UC Davis was caught on camera by dozens of people using mobile phones, iPhones and more.  The link is to a ten-minute video of the whole event in which riot policeman Lt John Pike stood over a seated row of protesting students and purposely pepper-sprayed them.  Though it's not clear on the videos, it was done by other police as well, some of whom forced open students' mouths and sprayed down their throats. 

Friday, November 18, 2011


Reading Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled at the moment, and in particular the chapter on Villanelles. 

The Villanelle is a bit akin to a Sudoku, or a Cryptic Crossword: everything has to fit or it falls apart.  It's a form, and a quite specific one at that.  There are five stanzas of three lines each, and the sixth stanza has an extra line. 

The first and third lines of the first stanza get repeated alternately at the end of the subsequent stanzas and then both appear in the last stanza.  They have to rhyme.  The end word of the middle line in each stanza rhymes (with a different rhyme sound).   In the last stanza the first line rhymes with the very first line of the poem, the second line rhymes with the second line of the poem, and then we have the two repeated lines.   It sounds more complicated than it is.   Dylan Thomas' Do not go gentle into that good night is a well-known poem than many people don't realise is a fine example of a Villanelle. 

This wonderful poem by Elizabeth Bishop is also a Villanelle, though by running over the second line in some cases she takes slight liberties with the form.    The poem becomes increasingly moving as it goes on; the last line is exceptionally so.

One Art

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 beloved 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 (Write it!) a disaster.

From Bishop’s last book of poems, Geography III 

I've just had a play with the form, and produced the following bit of nonsense....which I'm sure can be improved.   It's a start, however!  I also play a little with the second repeat line; using rhymes that are similar in sound may not be the wisest move, although it was interesting to do.

Perhaps it’s not the prime of every poet’s dream,
Though I myself am fairly keen
To aspire to a villanellic scheme.

So I won’t wait for the Muse’s beam
But try somehow the rhymes to glean;
Perhaps it’s not the prime of every poet’s dream.

I thought at first that I might seem
To be a Villanelle machine;
As I aspired to a villanelley scheme.

I’d vie with the Cream of the Poetic Team,
Sharpen my tools to the finest sheen;
Perhaps it’s not the prime of every poet’s dream.

Of Villanelles I’d write a ream,
Of Villanelles become the Dean -
Still aspiring to a villanelleful scheme.

While fame and fortune wildly gleam
Villanellistically I’m still green;
Perhaps it’s not the prime of every poet’s dream,
Aspiring to a villanellistic scheme. 

Mike Crowl Nov 2011