Sunday, January 29, 2006


I am awful at writing in form. It makes me feel like I am wearing overly starched clothes and being made to sit still in church on a cold hard wooden pew for hours on end. Still, I tried to write a villanelle last year, using my own "20 Minute Villanelle" instructions (archives 2-1-05). Looking at it now, I think it turned out not too awfully. I might be able to salvage it.

The Star Magnolia

Each morning when I rise, I look to the magnolia tree,
watch it billow like a lung, filling itself with light.
But I have only just begun to see it.

Before work, before the hot black coffee,
I stand at the window in my robe, clear my mind.
Each morning when I rise, I look to the magnolia tree,

limbs branching in every direction, leaf dividing from leaf.
Soon petals will fall, the fruits thicken in the night,
but I have only just begun to see it.

Amid long dark mornings of rain turned to sleet,
the frosted limbs will sway and click with ice
each morning when I rise. I look to the magnolia tree,

until the tree and I become only the tree.
Soon the velvety buds will be stippled with white —
but I have only just begun to see it.

Last night, branches full of stars. (Was it only a dream?)
Now blossoms crowd the sky.
Each morning when I rise, I look to the magnolia tree,
but I have only just begun to see it.


Pamela said...

Love it--especially the constellation motif you have here, arranging the sky into a story of your own...

As for the villanelle--AARGH--it's one of my greatest downfalls. The only one I've ever written is a parody of "One Art," entitled "One More," where the opening line is

The art of boozing isn't hard to master...

The things I will do for a good grade are truly shameless.

Peter said...

Pamela: love the opening line. (And it fits for Bishop, who I think was a bit of a drinker?) Please post the whole villanelle!

Charles said...

It's strange to hear you say that you don't feel comfortable writing "in form," because so much of the work I've read by you is deeply informed by form—if not on the "surface," in the way a villanelle is, then at a more base level of the poem: deep form.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for posting your poem. I've included my own villanelle (in the E. Pound form) that is a play between an ad and Bishop's "One Art" (certainly one of the more brilliant poems, any form, in the English language). I can't use html tags here to create the actual form as it should appear. I'm not sure it's much of a poem, but it was fun to write.

The Art of Un-Conscious Loving

[after an ad in Yellow Silk,
rethinking Elizabeth Bishop

Believe in an art
of un-conscious loving
of a distance so silent

and soft that no thing
matters an art so
conscious of un-loving

that --
no that can't be
Believe in a loving
so un-silent that

no soft art matters
Believe in a thing
so loving
in a distance

in a soft silent way
Believe that no one art masters
no one loving matters

that there is a thing
so silent
an art
so loving no one matters
Believe that art no one masters

Emily Lloyd said...

Yes, I was thinking the same thing as Charles...also given your joy in word play, palindrome poems, etc--I tend to think of forms as a similar kind of puzzle or challenge, a balancing. I'm a slut for a good villanelle, and with the constant repetition and rhyme I think the main (almost impossible) challenge is to sound like something other than someone banging a gong (or, prettier, tolling a bell) over and over. Having that "it" at the end of your repeating line really does the trick.

There's a site somewhere called Sonnet Central, and a few years back, on a geeky whim, I decided to make a wee little "Villanelle Central"--kind of as camp but teachers started linking to it--it's just a collection of villanelles on the web, not updated often any more, but for what it's worth: here.

Peter said...

Charles: Deep form . . . I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but I like it.

Peter said...

Em: Thanks. I certainly like word play and puzzles, but think of them more as a kind of constraint.

And I would bang a gong with you anytime.

Pamela said...

Peter--I put the parody up on my blog. Hope you like to laugh!