Villanellified

From village idiot as from villanelle
one learns the power of a repeated phrase.
Everything I need to know I learned in hell.

Weapons of mass destruction: an easy sell.
We’re trained to like whatever the radio plays,
be it the Village People or a villanelle.

I learned to just do it before I learned to spell;
asking why was only a passing phase.
Everything I need to know I learned in hell.

The pretty faces on the news can’t tell
spin from drip dry, fog from haze,
the village idiot’s raving from a villanelle.

We must support our troops. Ring that bell!
Pavlov’s elephants salivate. The donkey brays.
Everything I need to know I learned in hell.

The gnostic gospel of the cancer cell
preaches a god of growth. Replication pays.
Ask the village idiot with his villanelle:
everything I need to know I learned in hell.

[Poetry Thursday – dead link]

The assignment this week was — you guessed it — a villanelle. My feelings about the form are probably evident from the poem (I use the term loosely). Most of us are not Dylan Thomas.

Links to other Poetry Thursday posts are here. I’ve already found a couple villanelles that defied my expectations by not sucking. And of course many people did the sensible thing and chose not to follow the optional assignment.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

16 Comments


  1. I love this, your comparisons are very apt and you give us a lot to think about. It’s a well made villanelle too, as far as I can tell.

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  2. Wow. I’m picturing you in a Norse court, taunting a King with exquisite verse, just like what’s-his-name, dammit, the name’s gone completely out of my head, but you know who I mean. (He’s got his own saga, and he was handy with edged weapons, and he was a brilliant poet. Begins with E, and it’s not Erik.) Anyways. Nice work.

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  3. Dale: Egil.

    Dave: Actually, I’d include this in the “doesn’t suck” category. I like it when these villanelles gather momentum till they reach cataclism at the end — a short but heart-in-mouth ride. Yours does this.

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  4. I wish I had known about this particular Poetry Thursday. I would have loved attempting something like this. (especially with the post I put up today). I actually didn’t know the villanelle as a form, but it’s quite intriguing. I like what you’ve done with it.

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  5. I think this is well done, Dave. It does not suck.

    You won’t catch me writing one for a LONG time. If ever.

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  6. I think it’s tough to write in this strict form with feeling and without thumping the iambs – and you have done a very good job of it.

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  7. Crafty Green Poet – Thanks. I guess it’s well enough made, considering how low my aspirations were for it.

    dale – I’m surprised you’re impressed, but O.K.! I’d have to say though that I don’t think I resemble Egil so much as another, slightly later character that starred in a much shorter skaldic work, The Tale of Sarcastic Halli (translated in The Sagas of Icelanders).

    Tall Girl – Thanks.

    Pica – I’m not sure anyone’s ever described one of my poems as ending in cataclysm before and meant it as a compliment! Glad you liked.

    the sylph – :)

    Ms. Baroque – Ha! Good one. Thanks for stopping by.

    angie – Ah ha! Yeah, I noticed more than one slighting comment about the form at PT. The appeal of writing villanelles escapes me. But then I’m not too crazy about sonnets, either. If people want to challenge themselves, let them write an epic.

    Nancy – Thanks. Glad to see that you’re still blogging, BTW. I’ve been subscribed to your feed for months, but a while ago it must’ve stopped working. I re-subscribed and got a brand new feed address. Go figure.

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  8. Hah! You’re perverse, Dave, saying you hate the form and then writing a good one. It made me laugh though – I could feel your irritation but the fine poet that you are got the better of your crankiness. Congrats.

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  9. Thanks, Beth. I guess I was cranky in part because I had been subjected to an hour and a half of lies, half-truths and truisms at a “town hall meeting” in Altoona last night.

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  10. Congrats on taking advantage of the form to add meaning to the poem. Not a small accomplishment.

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  11. Hi Dave. Let me add my voice to the chorus – you might hate villanelles, but this one works quite well. I particularly liked the subtle changes to each repeat of the ‘a’ refrain.

    And, since I didn’t stop back and say so, thanks for the link last week!

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  12. Love the political rant in form. And echo the poet’s sentimenttfound here, in general.

    Reply

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