Monday, 24 January 2011

Monday One Stop Poetry form - Villanelle guest post by Luke Prater

One Stop Poetry Form

We want to encourage you to explore different poetry forms over the weeks and months to come. We will spend the first "session" describing the poetic form and the second week will be a time for the individual poet to do exercises with the form and an experienced poet. Please have fun and remember we are learning together! 

Welcome to our second Villanelle Monday!

For part two of our Villanelle class, I would like to introduce Luke Prater.
Many of you will know him already from One Shot Wednesdays. Luke was also featured several months ago on One Stop Poetry with one of his Villanelles. Luke has written many Villanelles and is very familiar with different forms of poetry.

Luke, I want to say a big "Thank you" for doing this. I very much appreciate your hard work for putting this together for us.

Now I'd like to hand you over to Luke...enjoy..

I avoided poetry throughout my teens and wrote prose instead (occasionally; I was very lazy), but when I finally got to University/College to do my Bachelor's in English Lit with Creative Writing, poetry really grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. When we learnt about the villanelle form, it stood out immediately as being both evocative and compelling due to the repetition, and in possession of far more musicality than most other forms I had encountered. The repetition of the two alternating refrains being one reason, but two other aural poetic devices are also very much present: rhyme, and meter/rhythm. Being a musician as well as a poet, aural device has always won me over, as opposed to visual device (metaphor, simile, personification, etc, though of course these are important also). It's a case of the 'three Rs' - Rhythm, Rhyme, Repetition.

Varying one of the refrains (the second (A2), preferably), can be very effective, however. It depends on context/theme/tone, and can lend the Narrative aesthetically pleasing variety and more sense of movement. A favourite villanelle, Elizabeth Bishop's One Art, does just that, and it's worth mentioning that varying/semi-repeating a refrain isn't out of the question, yielding fine results in many cases. As you can see here, it allows the piece to progress and be wrapped up with a varied A2 refrain appropriate for the closure.
One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

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 (Write it!) like disaster.

I am a poet who tries as many forms/genres as possible to stretch myself; many I will never return to, but I will always come back to the villanelle. I'll leave you with one of mine that you may not have seen, and that also isn't inappropriate in theme/tone/language (!)… in fact it's a rewrite of my very first I wrote at University all those years  ago, re-versifying it in iambic meter (pentameter), which, if you can manage it, will guarantee a smooth flow, and leave the reader in no doubt whatsoever as to how your lines are to be spoken/read rhythmically. This is why iambic meter become so popular, and the norm with form poets in English; also because it is the closest meter to how we naturally speak, with its lilting alternation of unstressed and stressed syllables.

An example for iambic pentameter (5 beats) would be:

do NOT | go GEN | tle IN | to THAT | good NIGHT

        1              2           3           4                    5

The First Day of Spring
by Luke Prater

Embittered Winter cast Himself away
upon a gale, and swept elsewhere on it.
The Sun shone brightly, Summer’s bold foreplay.

I wished the madding Springtime to betray
His colder cousin, knowing time befit;
embittered Winter cast Himself away.

The trees, they danced in wonderful ballet;
the singing breeze was happy to admit
the Sun shone brightly, Summer’s bold foreplay.

The Birds, they felt the change by break of day,
and joined the breeze in strains, pale-morning lit.
Embittered Winter cast Himself away.

And you and I, socks off, we tread the way
across the grass, and under trees we sit.
The Sun shone brightly, Summer’s bold foreplay..

Old man, invigorated, bright, though grey,
he mumbled praises like some Jesuit.
Embittered Winter cast Himself away;
the Sun shone brightly, Summer’s bold foreplay.

We are learning together..

Last week we said, we would take one of the Villanelles, have a closer look and give detailed feedback.
Adam Dustus (of One Stop Poetry) volunteered with the very first Villanelle he has written and Luke took the time for a detailed critique.

 Adam's original poem:

Once we have learned our lonely dreams can be
Oh God not knowing where or how to start
When all I ever want is you and me

Blank canvas drips like a soaked willow tree
Save in found comfort assembling shared parts
Once we have learned our lonely dreams can be

Until feeling lost can’t tell you are free
No flow chart off course for a bleeding heart
When all I ever want is you and me

Rudderless ships carry skeleton keys
Her lip-curled smile trumps my so-called art
Once we have learned our lonely dreams can be

Our last taken breaths, which death guarantees
Molecules boil over, anger departs
When all I ever want is you and me

Vision focused now, our present to see
For love a sincere gift, fair will imparts
Once we have learned our lonely dreams can be
When all I ever want is you and me

Hi Adam -

The central aspect here which, in my humble opinion, needs addressing, is the meter. Your two refrains flow well and scan five (pentameter) fine.

'Blank canvas drips like a soaked willow tree' (line four) > it took me several attempts to be able to speak/read this as five stresses. It's not obvious at all where the stresses should fall. Some may try and force the third stress onto 'a', which certainly doesn't want to be stressed, 'soaked' is probably what you intended? Viz - 'blank CAN | vas DRIPS | like a SOAKED | WIL low | TREE'. This line would flow better if you stripped one of the two unstressed small words there ('like' or 'a') and made 'soaked' into the continuous tense 'soaking', something like this -

Blank canvas drips; a soaking willow tree [pref; or] Blank canvas drips like soaking willow tree
'Save in found comfort assembling shared parts' (line five) > I'm having real difficulty with this line, metrically/rhythmically. You are relying on either the 'in' to be the first stress (which, being a preposition, it really doesn't want to be - we can only stress in poetry what we naturally stress in our language, or it renders lumpy lines, iambs or not), or 'found', which is OK, but requires the reader to realise that you're starting the line with a trisyllabic foot, like this -

'save in FOUND | COM fort | as SEM | bling SHARED | PARTS' ... this is still unwieldy rhythmically and many readers will be lost on the meter and struggle to feel where the beats fall. The fact that you have two stressed syllables to end on doesn't help either. Suggest (and just a suggestion, as always :) -

Except in comfort assembling shared parts [or] Except in comfort gathering shared parts  [this pref. 'found' is redundant and 'assembling' too many syllables in that particular place in the original version of the line]

'Until feeling lost can’t tell you are free' (line seven) - also struggling with the meter here. To count as five, it requires the first word's stresses to be reversed in relation to how we normally speak them, ie - 'UN til' rather than 'un TIL'. The flow is generally difficult in this line, but if you made a simple change in the right places, it would look completely different, eg

Until you're feeling lost, can’t tell you're free [if you're loathe to use 'you're' twice, substitute the first with another appropriate monosyllabic word]

'Our last taken breaths, which death guarantees' (line thirteen) - the number of stresses here is ambiguous - it could be read as four or five, depending on the reader (such is the problem when writing in meter but not strictly iambs or trochees; often lines depend of being spoken/read a certain way to scan). I assume you mean it to read like this -

OUR last | TA ken | BREATHS which | DEATH gua ran | TEES? but it could easily be read like this -

our last TA | ken BREATHS | which DEATH | gua ran TEES = tetrameter (fours). Think it's ok though, the majority of readers will see it the first way. And either way, it does flow, but 'which' is redundant and it would be less ambiguous regarding how to read/speak it with that word removed, ie -

Our last taken breath, death guarantees [also removed the 's' from 'breaths', it eases the flow and highlights the breath/death internal rhyme]

'For love a sincere gift, fair will imparts' (line seventeen) > this scans fine, but I wonder what you think of the notion of making it smoother by altering the front end slightly to 'For love's sincere gift...' etc? Or does that change the meaning? It eradicates the indefinite article 'a' (always good to rid these small 'filler' words if possible). The line would look like this -
For love's sincere gift, fair will imparts

You have many fine lines here Adam, and overall the premise/message is solid and clear. I particularly like the 'soaked willow' image, and this line is striking and provokes thought: 'Rudderless ships carry skeleton keys'. If it were mine I'd use lowercase at beginnings of lines (bar following a period, obviously, actual or implied by stanza-break); the form is old, but you're writing in modern language (for the most part; phrases like 'fair will imparts' seem a little archaic and slightly incongruous with the tone of the rest), no caps would suit in my opinion but it is merely a taste thing. In the old days poetry was always always capitalised, but most of it now is not. Your refrain -

'Once we have learned our lonely dreams can be' - I'm not sure I understand it. Do you mean 'Once we have learned how lonely dreams can be'?

One or two areas I would consider cliche in phrasing, but that's probably just me :) ('Oh God' and 'bleeding heart' stand out as such, but to some they may be fine). I could go deeper, but I think this is enough on one piece; nice villanelle, sir, especially if it's your first and these are all merely my opinions, to be taken or left as you choose. Thanks for allowing me to take it apart, Adam. I hope it was useful to you.

Are you in for some more practicing on Villanelles?

Once again, you will have the possibility to write a Villanelle and link up with us. Have a look at last week's Villanelle class for details like structure and writing tips.
Luke and I will try to make our way around but may not manage to visit each of you and, as Villanelles are quite complex, we won't manage to give a detailed feedback on all of your linked up poems (form, rhyme, correct meter etc.)

But if you want a detailed and honest feedback, please leave us a comment here in the comment section and we will have a closer look at what you came up with.


Anonymous said...

Here's hoping I got it right this time lol xx Luke rocks, Claudia rocks and One Stop pushes us out of our comfort zones. Love it!

Brian Miller said...

nicely done..thank you both claudia and luke for an engaging class...i was most interested int eh feedback luke gave as i think that is crucial in progressing as a writer/poet...

dustus said...

Detailed criticism from a knowledgeable source is invaluable for improving one's craft, especially when it comes to understanding the nuances of poetic forms. Thanks to Luke for the tweaks and insights!

Anonymous said...

Wow..for someone like me who write strictly in free verse, I have learned much and have much to learn. I think I will give this a shot and cross my fingers. Thanks Luke and I'll see you over at the Poetry Circle!!!

Luke Prater said...

Hi - Elizabeth Bishop looking good. What a fantastic villanelle hers is. Check out her use of enjambment (run-on lines)... genius. Could you please centre-align hers and mine also? Another small thing - I meant to have all lines from Adam's I quoted during the critique in 'inverted commas'... it makes it clearer when reading. Any chance of inserting those? Esp as some of the line-breaks have disappeared. Cheers Claudia and all at OSP for this; I hope I have contributed positively to you Monday Form Class.

Warmest Salad


Luke Prater said...

And thanks Adam especially for allowing us to use yours as an example for critique publicly. I had put a final version all together of how I would have had it (with the amended lines, caps dropped, etc) at the end, but it was edited out due to length I think. Adam if you are interested in seeing how it would look with those suggested changes, I'll be more than happy to mail it to you, or post it here in the comments, or wherever. Sometimes critique doesn't really make sense until you see it all brought together at the end as an updated version of the original piece (merely as suggestion, of course, not "This is how you must have your poem").

Natasha said...

Another feeble attempt!lol Thanks to you guys I'm really pushing beyond the comfort zone!

dustus said...

Luke, I posted the revised version on my site and even changed the title, which given the experience now seems more appropriate for both the occasion and content. Thanks for helping us out today!

Scott said...

I'm really enjoying this part of One Stop. It's like a getting a personal trainer to kick my butt at the gym...the poetic gym! When I have two free hours after work I'm going to make another attempt at this form. That darn meter gets me every time. Thanks Claudia and Luke!

hedgewitch said...

An excellent look under the hood of the form as always from Luke, who has a fine eye for detail. A wonderful villanelle from Elizabeth Bishop was icing on the cake.

lu said...

Bishop's is a stroke of genius... truly

Luke Prater said...

Oh hey cool Adam, so you got to see that bit at the end of the critique that's been edited out above? Or you put it together yourself you mean? As a demonstration for others, it would have been useful to include that at the bottom of the critique, so it could be easily compared/contrasted with the original at the top. Glad you found something of worth in what I did.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This was tough for me! I have admired villanelles from afar, but this was my first attempt to write one. Thank you for the great teaching last week and this week.

This poem tries to capture a struggle with faith during a difficult time. Thank you for this forum!

Natasha said...

Claudia, I would love some help with my most recent attempt. I haven't had much practise with this form, and now it seems to be a new compulsion to get it right. Please comment freely in relation to any recommendations that might help, and I will certainly rework. Thanks again for for investing your time in reading my attempt! :)

Natasha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi Claudia, I would welcome more detailed feedback on my attempt. The issues you pointed out were already in my mind, so some help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment

melani rae said...

Hey! Just left my first villanelle for dissection ;)

Claudia said...

will continue my commenting tomorrow - already quite late over here.. but before i go to bed, let me tell you: i LOVE villanelles...i'm a villanelle lover, you feel the the rhymes? yey!! thanks for linking up :=)

natasha: will get back on yours tomorrow

signed...bkm said...

thanks Luke and Claudia for the lesson...I will have to give this one some time and serious effort...thank you...bkm

Elizabeth Young said...

Whilst I enjoyed the villanelle poetry posted I think it is a form I would soon become tired of, simply because it is so repetitious!

Margaret Bednar said...

I have only been writing poetry since October of 2010 and mostly free verse. This was rather difficult and mine is a bit juvenile, I'm afraid. But I would love to hear critiques. ;P

Natasha said...

Claudia! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have learned so much from your critique! Not only that, I am compelled to try again...and that's saying alot, especially when the form is considered. For a gal who lives for free verse, I feel a new chapter has been started on my journey. You all are providing a great service to many and a huge standing ovation must be given in your honor! I am going to edit and fix that which I started, with a much better understanding of what I'm actually trying to do! :) Again, many thanks to you and Luke both for helping us become better :)

Natasha said...

With Claudia's help I have reworked my last attempt. The help was amazing, and my understanding much improved (I hope!) Feel free to check out The Simple Form of Me...would love the feedback!

Phoenix-Karenee said...

Thank you so much for stopping by, Luke! I have already altered the stale phrasing.

Who knows? I might even change the meter of the b lines eventually, now that the challenge to do so draws me to review the phrasing, though I must admit "a modern take on villanelle" doesn't sting quite so much as the term "trite". Heh.

I shall definitely manage to adhere to the framework of this form soon. Come to find out, I found it more naturally shaped to hold thoughts than I had assumed.

signed...bkm said...

I know I am a day late...but would gladly except suggestions and critque on my Villanelle..thank you...bkm

signed...bkm said...

Claudia...I think I corrected the lines...when you have a chance please I appreciate one more peek...thank you so...bkm

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Hi! Claudia and Luke...
What a very nice detailed lesson in the Villanelle for poets and a nice lesson for readers, Of poetry (That would be me...) whom just want to learn about the form known as the...Villanelle.
Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-D