Thursday, August 03, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

A Villanelle? What was I thinking? I should title this post "When Bad Poetry Happens to Good People."

I really hate writing in a form, but there are a few things at play for me this week.

1. Back from vacation, I still have that rested, superhuman feeling that I can do anything (HA!)
2. Ella, my daughter, turns one tomorrow
3. This week’s Poetry Thursday prompt is to find inspiration in a song.

The song that’s been rolling through my head is Van Hunt’s "Being a Girll," and the refrain, "She just can’t help being a girl." (Scroll down's Van Hunt page and listen to an audio clip.) That, along with waking up one morning and thinking about my daughter's feet, led me to the Villianelle and today's poem.


Seems like yesterday you were in my dream
Formed inside my body as a pearl
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

Those plump sections, with meaty toes in between
Pebbly skin, your thin rind a dizzying whirl
Seems like yesterday you were in my dream

Your hand holds tight to a crumbled saltine,
What you cherish most, I try to unfurl
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

I think about your soft fruit, still pristine,
Before your hair tilts up in a sexy curl
Seems like yesterday you were in my dream

I’ll wake up from this and replay the scene,
The moment you say your life is yours, let it unfurl
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

You’ll grow up, grow older, my little bean
To tell me you just can’t help being a girl
Seems like yesterday you were in my dream
Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines

For those who don’t know the Villanelle form, it is 19 lines long, but only uses two rhymes, while also repeating two lines throughout the poem. The first five stanzas are triplets, and the last stanza is a quatrain so that the rhyme scheme is as follows: aba aba aba aba aba abaa.

Confused? Two classic examples are Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" and Elizabeth Bishop’s "One Art."

So there it is, out there for the entire world to see. And now I can move on and read your fabulous work this hot-and-humid Thursday.


paris parfait said...

Beautiful, inventive poem, January! And happy birthday to your lovely daughter!

jenclair said...

I love villanelles and poems that touch on the miraculous, rapid, transitory states of the first three years. Your poem is a keepsake for more than one reason...

JvS said...

I've just come up for blog-air after pounding all my inspiration into a villanelle, so I find it reassuring there are others being beaten over the head with a villanelle stick. It's wonderful when you can find the line that bears repeating, that bears the weight of importance, I think your tangerines do.

January said...

Tara: Thanks for the kinds words. Can't believe Ella is one year old. Will post more about it tomorrow.

Jenclair: I'm on the fence about this as a keeper, but it's good to stretch yourself once in a while.

Jemima: Welcome back to the blogosphere! Yes, the tangerines and the song lyric have been in my head all week. I'd love to see one of your Villanelles sometime.

FatCharlatan said...

Hi January...I discovered you by way of Writer Bug, and I have you to thank for introducing me to Poetry Thursday. I'm a newbie poet (I write fiction and nonfiction) and used to feel so intimidated by poetry (still do, but it's lessening, thanks to the fabulous community support I'm finding via the blog world).

I had no idea what a villanelle was until my residency in grad school a few months ago--we workshopped Bishop's "One Art," and I was like "how does someone write in this form."

But you did--and quite wonderfully as well.

I don't have kids, but I have a ton of friends who do, and so many comment on their kids' little feet and toes, so I think you captured something that's universal to so many moms, but then you made it your own by showing us your very individual experience through the repetition of "Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines." The word nibble is great because it's delicate and loving and tangerines are sweety and juicy--a perfect way to talk about the sweetness and juiciness of childhood.

"Your hand holds tight to a crumbled saltine," is just kick-ass awesome because you captured the moment as an image that--I believe--everyone (even those sans kids) can picture.

The "I try to unfurl" and then later in the poem "let it unfurl" is beautiful--showing a mom coming to terms with her little girl growing up and doing things for herself.

I'm no expert on form, but this seems tight and on target in terms of structure.

Really, really wonderful work, you super-mom, you! :)

January said...

FC: I've seen you post on WB's blog and have been meaning to stop by and introduce myself.

As I reread the poem, using "unfurl" twice was an accident, but a happy accident, I think. That's what I get for writing a poem at midnight. There are just not that many words that rhyme with "girl."

Thanks for the kind words, FC. Can't wait to visit your blog later today.

Jennifer said...

it is good! thanks for the poetry lesson too

pepektheassassin said...

Hahaha! I was seeing your husband when I began to read this! What a bizarre picture in my mind.

A villanelle! So hard to do, but nicely done -- better when I knew it was for your little girl....

Happy Birthday Ella!

lisrobbe said...

this was great and thanks for the lesson on villanelle. I love learning new things. I visit often and love to read your blog.

Deb R said...

I'm rather in awe of anyone who tackles writing a villanelle. Yay you, Jan!! I like it!

Catherine said...

It's a lovely villanelle. Whenever I try to write in rhyme, it comes out silly, but I think it's a great idea for everyone to try rhyming poems occasionally.

twitches said...

I can't write in form for sh*t, so I'm impressed. And eating feet like tangerines? Is awesome.

J.B. Rowell said...

Well done, and happy birthday to your little bean. It's nice to "meet" a fellow poet/mom. I have two sweet peas and have been thinking about tackling a Villanelle - just thinking at this point. You make it look easy!

Colorsonmymind said...


Happy Bday to you precious daughter.

chiefbiscuit said...

You always deliver - and this is no exception - beautiful. I like the way you've used the villanelle (SP?) form. A delicious poem!

liz elayne said...

this is incredible. what a talent you have my dear...
imagine your daughter, reading this years from now. how this will touch her heart.
so glad you ventured into the world of a villanelle!

Superhero Activist said...

I'm always amazed by poets who can write in form and not lose the beauty of a word, an image, or a moment. I wish I had that talent!

I loved the reflection in this poem, the way pieces of moments are captured and allowed to saturate themselves in the present. The way your poem looks to the future, how things may change, but these moments will never fade.

And can I just digress for a moment and say I love the blurb on your "About Me" section. The succint power behind the elements you have chosen to describe yourself were beautiful and well-done.

I'm eagerly looking forward to reading next week's Poetry Thursday piece from you!

January said...

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words.

If you are form-adverse, consider trying a sonnet or sestina or a villanelle, just for the heck of it.

Tina With Wings said...

Gorgeous poem and happy birthday to your daughter too.

The last line is my favorite: 'Last night I nibbled your feet like tangerines'. Aww man, that's perfection.

Verity said...

Ooooh, I love this. It felt like a song to me, as I was reading it. It is so loving sweet lovely!!

Dani said...

Girl, you wrote this poem at midnight? I wrote mine at midnight, too, but it isn't as elegant as yours! I guess that is the difference between a high school diploma and an MFA :-). Great work.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I think my girl is kinda cute, too!


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