Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Few Precious Words to Grind ~ A Villanelle

Few Precious Words to Grind ~ A Villanelle

I have few precious words to grind,
to work through meaning cold lips deny.
It's time, you said; you changed your mind.

I urge you stay. You rush to go, to put behind
my mourning long from quick goodbyes
that leave no precious words to grind,

to parse how love could track so blind
and barbed to make me red- and redder eyed.
It's time, you said; you'd changed your mind,

found others do where no oaths bind.
To me your promise once gave lie,
such precious word I grieve to grind.

No riddle solved, no reason find.
This heart you took and broke; but why?
It's time, you said; I've changed my mind.

From you I turn; I speak, unkind.
This bitterest root I plant yet cry,
Leave me some precious words to grind.
No time, you said; I've changed my mind.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

 Audio Recording of Few Precious Words to Grind ~ A Villanelle by mdoallas

Direct Link to Audio : http://soundcloud.com/mdoallas/audio-recording-of-few (If necessary, copy the link into your browser and you should be able to go directly to the audio track.)

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This month, Every Day Poems, the five-day-a-week poetry daily from T.S. Poetry Press, is exploring the villanelle, a 19-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. It comprises five tercets (three-line stanzas) and a culminating quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the first stanza alternate as the last line in the second through fifth stanzas; in the quatrain, they serve as the two concluding lines (couplet). The structure as shown here is one of the more readily graspable. (Search the term on Google and you'll get hundreds of thousands of hits, a few outstanding; some convoluted in their explanation of the form.) In his post "I See You in There: the Villanelle", David Wheeler shows us the way, offering his own humorous "VaudeVillanelle". 

Among the most famous examples of the form are Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art". A wonderful contemporary practitioner of the form is Louisiana Poet Laurate Julie Kane (see her Rhythm & Booze), about whom I wrote here.

I decided to try the form (and no, I don't think it's easy!) and admit to taking liberty with the phrasing of the refrains; I'm not one for rigidly following anything, and to my mind, the variations I use for the refrain work to the poem's advantage. But you let me know.

A note on my use of the word "grind": I use its meaning here in the sense of belaboring, or studying laboriously, to try to figure out something that basically cannot be reduced to words nor, therefore, to understanding. Falling in and falling out of love are certainly in the category of tough-to-explain, let alone understand. It seems with this subject, you just know, one way or the other.

Every Day Poems on FaceBook


Doug Spurling said...

Maureen, I usually "grind" through poems and my mind gets ground up in the process. But I got this one. You did a great job in my humble opinion. Thank-you.

Louise Gallagher said...

I agree with Doug. Brilliant job. And hearing you read it made it richer!

L.L. Barkat said...

Chilling. Poignant. You've closed my throat up tight (and that's a compliment).

Sheila said...

Nicely done with the form I like the no words to grind line.

Elly said...

Yes I loved hearing you read it Maureen, but it was already beautiful reading and saying it in my mind. Wonderful.

hedgewitch said...

Fine execution of a far from simple form, where the awkwardness and stiffness of weighted confrontations such as that final dismissal are reflected in the short, expressive bursts of phrases. I agree with your premise that villanelles which morph a bit in the refrain can have a better effect, as here.

Anonymous said...

Maureen!!! Oh my! This is phenomenal! You are a master of the form! It flows beautifully and flawlessly! I'm in awe at your talent! Also, I want your Neruda book!!! :)


PS... you should share this in my soundcloud group!!! PLEASE!

Brian Miller said...

goodness...that echo in the last 2 stanzas sent me shivering...evocative verse maureen...felt poem...

S. Etole said...

This works ... so well it leaves me a bit aching.

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

I have never tried working with this form and it seems a difficult one to work with--I looked up the form while I read your piece and you really did a wonderful job of this piece--sad, sad write!


Jenne' R. Andrews said...

It is, in many senses, I gather, unfortunate that the villanelle is the perfect form for this and that the repetitions playing off variation enforce the poem's power. It is beautifully painful and how hard it is that at times the most exquisite things we create are the richest in anguish. and, no one grieving ever thinks anguish passes.... Love, j

nitewrit said...


One of my favorite forms. You did a beautiful job of using this form and at the same time capturing the essence of a breaking apart. Very emotional and moving.


Anonymous said...

any way you write is to a poems advantage as far as i'm concerned.


Jerry said...

I break out in hives every time I think of form poetry. When I grow up I want to try on some form poetry. For now it seems my very life is in grind mode and when moments to write slip in it's all I have to capture the context I am in in free verse or prose.
In the topic of love and love lost "grind" is a perfect word.
It was good to hear you read this.