The Literary Nest is now a poetry journal. To mark the new year and new beginnings, I am holding a Villanelle contest.
A villanelle is a form closer to my heart because of the song-like quality and repetition that resounds, emphasizing the claim that the poet wants to make. I’ve been partial to lyrical poetry since it allows the mind to roam free and still be rooted in reality. In many cases, a villanelle can tell a story like narrative poetry does. Take, for example, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art
.” True, that the reader has to imagine and fill in the details, but the story builds up to the graceful climax at the end. Similarly, “The House on the Hil
l” by Edwin Arlington Robinson tells a stark story that a reader can imagine. The tone and the carefully chosen refrains “They are all gone away.” and “There is nothing more to say.” guide the reader to build a story. The graceful closing leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about the gradual destruction of the people, the decay of the community, who lived there.
So, what story Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” tell? With its surreal, dreamlike tone and imagery of heaven and hell, the narrative is far from linear. There is a story, however. It’s the story of struggle in the narrator’s mind and the back and forth arguments that lead to the final resolution. During the internal discussion, the story of love and loss unfolds. It turns out that the narrator isn’t a ‘mad girl’ after all. It’s an often-repeated story of the betrayal of the narrator, presumably a young woman, by a deceitful lover. The narrator is left to wonder her sanity, hence the title. Through the waltz-like movements of the thoughts and the poetic lines, the dance of the internal struggle goes on.
The darkness descends when the narrator closes her eyes. The real world comes roaring back when she opens her eyes. The stars waltz in and out of her dreams. She dreams about the lover’s passionate wooing, and she equates it with God’s grace falling over her. As like every other love story, the lover goes away and has no intention of ever returning. “I grow old and forget your name.” She wonders if it was all in her mind. Did she make it all up? In some ways, she did make him up, made up all his desirable qualities because love is born and exists in one’s mind. The physical manifestation of love is not possible without the brain making up the narrative of love. In that realization, one thing is sure: the narrator is not a mad girl, but one who narrates an astute observation about the nature of love.
I hope, readers, that some of you are inspired to narrate your story through the villanelle form and submit. Who knows, you could possibly win. If you don’t remember Annie (as if that’s possible), read her poetry, her poetry textbooks, and join her online poetry groups to exchange information about form and meter. All that information can be found on her website.
One day is there of the series
by Emily Dickinson
One day is there of the series
Termed “Thanksgiving Day”
Celebrated part at table
Part in memory –
Neither Ancestor nor Urchin
I review the Play –
Seems it to my Hooded thinking
Had There been no sharp subtraction
From the early Sum –
Not an acre or a Caption
Where was once a Room
Not a mention whose small Pebble
Wrinkled any Sea,
Unto such, were such Assembly,
‘Twere “Thanksgiving day” –
In the times of turmoil, I always turn to Emily for comfort and wisdom. No matter what part of the world you live, these are the times of upheaval. It’s that annual day of giving thanks in the United States. I, for one, am thankful for poetry in my life, so I am sharing this poem here today.
The poet says it’s a “series/Termed “Thanksgiving Day.””
Perhaps, she means to say that we should be grateful for our blessings, whatever they may be, every day, in a series of days, and not just for one day of the year.
The holiday is “Celebrated part at table” and “Part in memory -” because perhaps, not every loved one is sitting at the table to celebrate.
She refers to the day as a “Reflex Holiday,” a celebration carried out without much introspection. She feels that the holiday would not have held a deeper significance had there been no loss. “Had There been no sharp subtraction/From the early Sum -” Because life is full of losses, the celebration of the bounty is more meaningful.
This theme of some loss making the joys of life sweeter appears on several of her poems. The Elsewhere she says, “To comprehend a nectar/Requires sorest need.”
We certainly have the sorest need for the nectar right about now.
May you have a joyous day today and every day of the year give you satisfaction.
For some reason, these words seem apt for this winter, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. It can hold any meaning that suits the season in your heart.
“Glee! The Great Storm Is Over!”
By Emily Dickinson
Glee! The great storm is over!
Four have recovered the land;
Forty gone down together
Into the boiling sand.
Ring, for the scant salvation!
Toll, for the bonnie souls, —
Neighbor and friend and bridegroom,
Spinning upon the shoals!
How they will tell the shipwreck
When winter shakes the door,
Till the children ask, “But the forty?
Did they come back no more?”
Then a silence suffuses the story,
And a softness the teller’s eye;
And the children no further question,
And only the waves reply.