POETS ONLINE ARCHIVE
Villanelles

Edward Hirsch's poem, "Ocean of Grass" from On Love, though not strictly a villanelle, follows that form. I think that in it the repetition of the lines works well with the subject matter.

Though some consider this a difficult form, Hirsch says that the key is to begin with a particularly strong line that bears up under the repetition. You may try his looser variation of this form, or look at the stricter versions in the poems referenced below.

VILLANELLE = A poem in a fixed form, consisting of five three-line stanzas followed by a 4 line quatrain and having only two rhymes. In the stanzas following the first, the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately as refrains. (Hirsch changes the refrains slightly.) They are the final two lines of the concluding quatrain.

check other villanelle samples, including the use of rhyme: by E.A. Robinson and Dylan Thomas



There Are No Accidents

Another one of those strange events
leads you to the conclusion that
there are no accidents.

Just when you think it all makes sense,
that you know your life's plot,
another one of those strange events

occurs and throws you off the scent,
rips away your vision of the world as flat.
There are no accidents

unless you don't believe that things are meant
to be, that in matters like love, we attract
to another through those strange events.

How can it be a meaningless coincidence
that you now sit where I have sat?
There are no accidents,

so why not be content
to think that this duet's
another one of those strange events?
There are no accidents.

Susan Rothbard



Back to the Light

She was wild, staggering secretly into the night
where once she danced and rainbows were her dream.
Come, my daughter, come with me back into the light.

She rode on silver horses, their spirits taking flight;
the forest and the sea offered stones and shells that gleam
but her wild staggering secrets compelled her to the night.

The bonds that bound us with love-knots so tight
slowly unraveled as she pulled at every seam
and I pleaded, daughter, please return to the light.

I searched her soul and mine for the source of this blight
but she eluded me scheme by darkened scheme
as she staggered with her secrets back into the night.

So I sent her to the hills to be healed by the bright
truth of life flowing through there like a stream.
Go, my daughter, go and find your own spirit's light.

She picked apart the pieces of each dark delight
and scattered them like ashes beneath the moon's beam.
No longer was she staggered by secrets in the night;
welcome back, my daughter, welcome to the light.

Barbara Whitehill



Craft

The fire inside that makes it yield
is what makes my cooper's art.
The dance we do around the edge-

the barrelmaker's dance, as I pound
the staves even, making the seal tight.
The fire inside that makes it yield

caramelizes the oak and burns
but does not destroy the wood.
The dance we do around the edge

as we force the wood into its circle.
We sing the smoky praises to
the fire inside that makes it yield.

What is it that most shapes
this life that we are building-
the fire inside that makes it yield?
the dance we do around the edge?

Charles Michaels


Beauty

I'm in thrall to the clutter and hum of sleep,
wrested here for a spindle's worth of blood,
the knotted flower my father couldn't keep.

I've dreamt of a bear ticking in a box.  To keep
him there, I carried him to the top of a wide wood,
in thrall to the clutter and hum of sleep.

At the cliff's green edge I toppled him into the deep
plain sea where he growled and wept into the flood,
the knotted flower my father couldn't keep.

And now a man in red begins to rescue me, to leap
into the brambled clot, the brocade brood
of the spell, the thrall and clutter of sleep.

And now a man behind a sword rides me up a steep
field, watches in the mirror for my mood,
the knotted flower my father couldn't keep.

And now I am discovered, my fever blouse awry, the seep
and glint of love's bright bruise claiming me for good,
in thrall to the clutter and hum of sleep.

I am the knotted flower my father could not keep.
 

Mary DeBow


Phoenix

Her life was shadowed by a thousand names.
She felt them whispered in the winds of night,
their lives consumed by a maelstrom of flame.

She did not feel she could live whole, or sane,
until, somehow, she put something right.
Her life was shadowed by a thousand names.

She moved through the living heartsick and maimed,
grasping for meaning that would shed fitful light
why they met an end filled with fury and flame.

At the end of her life, holding fast to the pain,
she grew a forest autumnally bright.
Though her life was still shadowed by thousands of names,

she sought sunshine and soil, gave praise to the rain,
sat with head tilted back, watching birds taking flight,
as though they could rise from the maelstrom of flame.

My memories glint with thin hope that she gained
on the ache that had dogged her in pain and in fright.
Her life had been shadowed by thousands of names,
their lives consumed in a maelstrom of flame.
 

Michelle Cameron


Nowhere

You placed a flower in my hair
the other night when I walked with you.
Along that path that led nowhere

sounds of springtime filled the air.
You held my hand - I told you to.
When you placed the flower in my hair

I was a wood-nymph smiling there.
Flowers are lush, but fruits are few
along the paths that lead nowhere.

We were a blindly love-struck pair
With naught but pleasure in our view.
As you placed that flower in my hair

I smiled at you without a care,
and wondered just what we would do
along that path that led nowhere.

In retrospect, did we dare
- in that nothing-time - just we two,
To place more than a flower in my hair
along that path that led nowhere?

Catherine LeGault



Mother's Blood 

A mother's blood runs thick and deep
while giving birth ­ a crimson stream.
She and her boy-child cling and weep.

He holds her leg learning to creep,
then walks. She smiles. He is supreme.
A mother's blood runs thick and deep.

Time tells her he's not hers to keep
but a loan of light, a gleam.
She and her boy-child cling and weep

about the day when he will seep
away. Then they both deem
a mother's blood runs thick and deep.

A man stands so she takes a peep
at him grown-up. It's so extreme
she and her boy-child cling and weep.

The price to pay becomes too steep.
"Please do not leave," you hear her scream.
A mother's blood runs thick and deep.
She and her boy-child cling and weep.
 

Diane Hoover Bechtler


Yellow Peril

My garden's full of daffodils
Each border is a-groan with them
And so are all my windowsills.

This sea of yellow flows and spills
Around, about each stalk and stem
My garden's full of daffodils

Up to their ears in yellow frills
The garden's quite an anadem
And so are all my windowsills.

Not Narcissi, no! - nor Jonquils
Or flower as dignified as them -
My garden's full of daffodils.

Each tidy border overspills -
Blazing with ochre meristem
And so are all my windowsills.

The twentieth vase, this armful fills
I shall not plant this bulb again!
My garden's full of daffodils
And so are all my windowsills.

Lal Asharni


Survival

The parched man drinks
the salt water
knowing it will kill him.

His tongue as dry as words,
his fingers barely able to hold a pen,
the parched man drinks

and the water is bitter and cold
as the island he inhabits.
Knowing it will kill him,

he lifts the pen again
and begins to write.
The parched man drinks

a sip with each sentence.
It is the salt water
the parched man drinks-
knowing it will kill him.

Ken Ronkowitz



On the Belly of the Beast
 

Sailing West to find the East
Columbus sails in circles— for he is
Sailing on the belly of the beast.

Cortes, inspired by his priest,
Seeks believers, blood and gold while
Sailing West to find the East.

He takes by Divine Right, (indulgences increased),
Ripping the treasure from Monteczuma’s chest—
Just above the belly of the beast.

Sutter hosts a Californian feast.
His menu makes manifest our destiny of
Sailing West to find the East.

Trade winds warm a global yeast,
Then grinds-up bones to bake the bread
To fill the belly of the beast.

Lands and people— all are pieced
To fit the contours of coffers stuffed by
Sailing West to find the East—
Sailing on the belly of the beast.

Steven Bizel


The Morning Ritual: Setting Free

Freeze dried or instant slow roasted or ground
Take it with sugar or sweetened with cream
Once words are spoken their wings make the sound

Buy it in cupsful or order a pound
Wait for the  genuine; search for a dream
Freeze dried or instant slow roasted or ground

Beware the syllable too easily found
Try risking the truth; abandon the scheme
Once words are spoken their wings make the sound
 

Forget the old rules; don't let words be bound
Create a fountain. Envision a stream
Freeze dried or instant slow roasted or ground

Bring memories of tables set seven around
Sing magic sing starlight crack open the beam
Once words are spoken their wings make the sound
 

Blend Starbucks with murmurs in gerundive gowns
Brew nouns into coffee and soak up the steam
Freeze dried or instant slow roasted or ground
Once words are spoken their wings make the sound
 

Susan Sapnar


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