Friday, September 29, 2006

another villanelle

Feline grace is merely an illusion
Held by those who have not seen a cat stumble
Of course the cat will accept this conclusion

Even as his paw makes the miscalculation
That will send him a long a nine-foot tumble
Feline grace is merely an illusion

But the supple spine is the cat's possession
That lets him refrain being humble
Of course the cat will accept this conclusion

For that supple spine resists concussion
As his paws on the ledge merely fumble
Feline grace is merely an illusion

As he falls through the air, his meditation:
Quick-healing bones permit him to bumble
Of course the cat will accept this conclusion

With hours of purr-filled sleep, recuperation
Is too near that the cat should grumble
Feline grace is merely an illusion
Of course the cat will accept this conclusion.

Obviously not as effective as the earlier villanelle but I wanted to experiment to see if the form was as difficult as its reputation. In some ways, yes, because writing a villanelle where the structurally commanded repetitions are what they are makes it hard to find lines that both serve the structural purpose and invited developmental significance throughout the form.

On the other hand, there is a sense in which if you just nail lines 1 and 3 of the 19 lines with an ear for their rhetorical/structural significance and their function in the logical sequence of an argument there is a sense in which villanelles write themselves as long as you start one with the clear understanding that you're making a single point with manifold implications.

It's like setting up the recipe for a cake. After each key instruction in the process you're reminding people that we're baking a cake and the non-repeating lines should explicate the significance of each progressive step in the baking process. Then at the end you explain what you just accomplished that you said you were going to do at the start. So, in a way, you begin with a question or premise that can become its own conclusion.

Perhaps it is the recursive, even circular nature of the rhetoric created by the form that makes the form hard. People don't like circular arguments but, as some philosophers note, not all circular arguments are false. This is especially handy when thinking of writing out a villanelle, or so it seems to me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

posting fuzz

I just watched Jet Li's "last" film. Fearless is fun, though as an artistic accomplishment it's similar enough to Hero that I would have put Hero last if I were Jet Li. Oh well. I'm not so Jet can do what he likes.

A VILLANELLE

After sending a raven

Sea foam is full of the filth of the world
Life-giving water is poisoned by salt
From this all things known as life have been hurled

Now the dreams of countless dreamers have swirled
Together within the watery vault
Sea foam is full of the filth of the world

Though each dream might be embroidered or pearled
In each one was found a terrible fault
From this all things known as life have been hurled

And as each dream its own banner unfurled
It did above others itself exalt
Sea foam is full of the filth of the world

So dreams exalted themselves in the world
Prompting the sea to begin its assault
From this all things known as life have been hurled

Now the countless dreams and dreamers have swirled
Together within the watery vault
Sea foam is full of the filth of the world
From this all things known as life have been hurled

I wrote this in a couple of days. No fooling. Mainly on the 22nd and the 26th. The beauty of the form, just as a form, is that the repetition makes it easier to develop patterns for the language. It's a good thing, too, because not a whole lot of words rhyme with "world" or "salt". I think I covered all the most likely candidates.

As to the theme, well, that's self-explantory. Even without any biblical literacy the motiff of the flood or the sea as agent of destruction is simple enough. After my little alphabet poem the villanelle is positively easy.