Apr 242010
 

ENTRIES ARE OFFICIALLY CLOSED. COMMENTS STILL WELCOME.

Herewith the first ever (annual) Numéro Cinq villanelle writing contest. I am announcing it early so that you can work on your entries. Entries will be accepted between May 1 and May 15. Entries, as with the aphorism contest, should be posted as comments on this page. Entries are open to anyone in the world, but only if they are written in  English, French, Latin, or classical Greek (the only languages anyone can speak in this house). As with the aphorism contest, I encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the form. See the craft and technique page for help. Roughly speaking, we’re talking about a 19-line poem written in tercets (except for the last stanza which has four lines). The first and last line of the first stanza become the last lines of the following stanzas and also turn into a couplet at the end of the last stanza. These are fun to write and can actually turn out surprisingly well if you arm yourselves with strong refrain lines (think: panache, drama, obsession, schizophrenia). You need not be a poet to enter. And it’s always a good thing for prose writers to extend themselves; it makes their prose more interesting. One lesson to be drawn from writing a poem like this is the way form drives content instead of the other way around.

One example, familiar to most of us, is Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

There will be the usual enormously expensive prizes, including one free coffee at Virgil’s in downtown Saratoga Springs, NY (Jacob will be your server).

dg

  143 Responses to “The First Annual Numéro Cinq Villanelle Contest”

  1. Will plane fare to Albany, New York be included in prize money?

  2. To retrieve the coffee, I mean.

  3. I checked the contest bylaws and also polled the Board, and apparently there is no provision for air fare, or any other kind of fare, for that matter. We will try to remedy this oversight in the future. But if you can make it to Virgil’s, the coffee will be there.

    Of course, there will also be speeches, dignitaries, distinguished authors (wheeled in from the senior citizens’ complex), and baton twirlers. Certificates will be handed out to attest to your facility in the invention of villanelles. You will receive a replica of your villanelle in bronze. Also a small mixed-breed puppy or maybe a rabbit.

    Is this good enough?

    dg

    • Will it be a talking rabbit?

      • Kitchen staff says we ate the last talking rabbit at the Annual NC Board of Governor’s Ball last week, so we are out right now. It will be a mute rabbit. They sign, however.

        • So far nothing you’ve written here looks remotely like a villanelle.

          Just an observation.

          • Ha! I started this afternoon. But I was so taken in with the offer of coffee that I had to inquire as to its ready availability. I did make the assumption that good conversation would be involved, either with the talking rabbit or the administrator of the contest. But perhaps I dream.

      • if no one else wants the small mixed-breed puppy, can I have it?

  4. OK, because I think any contest should have many entries so we can better appreciate the winner and see what it shines so brightly against and because I want to put the judge in a quandary over a submission before the official starting date and that was previously written and because there isn’t a chance in hell I’m going to write a poem of any form (the last one was in the third grade) but I want to get into the spirit of the thing anyway, here is my submission.

    But first, the setup. About two years ago I discovered I had an official email address at the school district where I teach, actually had had it for 5-6 years. When I finally set up my account, I found I had years of emails from the alumnus office of my college (how do they manage to keep finding me?), an old email from Byron T, asking why he got a B (sorry Byron — and I checked), emails from several deposed or departed chancellors and other bureaucratic stuff I had been ignoring all this time, and, of course, tons and tons o’ spam.

    To commemorate the occasion, I composed the following villanelle comprised entirely of subject headings verbatim from the spam email, which I just didn’t have heart or nerve to open. (I could have done an x rated version.)

    I know, I know, it doesn’t rhyme. But I followed the rest of the rules.

    Spam Villanelle

    When will we meet again?
    Can’t you answer the call?
    Re: Order status 56041

    It’s cold, don’t keep me waiting
    Here is my number
    When will we meet again?

    Lovemaking bliss can be yours too
    Reward your experience with marketable degree
    Re: Order status 56041

    Is your cell phone always busy?
    Message you sent blocked by our bulk email filter
    When will we meet again?

    Let’s meet as usually
    Your lady will not believe her eyes
    Re: Order status 56041

    We seek for you all day!
    Come upstairs!
    When will we meet again?
    Re: Order status 56041

  5. Well,Gary’s villanelle is disheartening, because how it can be topped? First horse out of the gate takes the prize?

    We can only hope he is disqualified for jumping the gun.

    • The judges’ panel has issued an interim ruling: Pre-entries are allowable as long as everyone agrees not to read them until May 1.

  6. Gee, thanks for posting the most daunting possible example of the form. I feel puny and exalted at the same time, grateful that I’m not a poet; happy to be a reader. And yet still, absurdly, perversely, inspired to try just one more Villanelle …

  7. Four points:

    1. Mine is better when heard, especially by a computer’s synthesized voice (I tried it).

    2. I was real proud I knew what a villanelle was.

    3. Villanelles seem to lend themselves to imperative sentences.

    4. I have set the mark — the low water mark. They can only get better from here.

  8. Gary has thrown down the gauntlet. He may say he has not written a poem since the 3rd Grade, but the sophistication and nuance of “Spam Villanelle” show a clear advance beyond his juvenile efforts. Though haunted by sentimenality, this is not a poem written by someone in the 3rd Grade! Also Gary delicately and wittily reinvents the plagiarism theme that has haunted Numero Cinq from the beginning.

    Suffering insomnia after reading “Spam Villanelle,” I was forced to write my own pre-entry. The setup: I found these words in my Spam Folder; I picked the 12th, 4th, and 5th word of each spam message and wove them into the following narrative–it turned out to be shockingly autobiographical. Also you can see the influence of Thomas Wyatt. The obsession with sheets and sleeping clearly reflect the author’s state of mind at 4 a.m.

    Villanelle for a Capricious Lady

    Last night she said she loved me,
    and in the morn she lay abiding,
    wrapped in sheets whereon we slept.

    But she left me for another,
    by mid-afternoon at three,
    though I know last night she loved me,

    and her hands caressed my cheeks
    as she whispered that she loved me
    clasped in sheets whereon we slept.

    She had left ten men already
    just the week before we met
    but last night, oh, yes! she loved me–

    she told me twice, or maybe once,
    as we fell abandoned in the darkness
    in the sheets whereon we slept.

    The man she sleeps with now
    will not see her more tomorrow
    for just last night she swore she loved me
    in the lonely sheets whereon we slept.

    • I just want to point out my use of biblical parallelisms and the word “fell” which is clearly an allusion.

      I don’t know if any of you will get this without some help.

  9. RE: Re: 56041:

    If you go to the 5th. chapter of Revelations and look at verse 6, you find —

    And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes

    That’s 4 living creatures and 1 Lamb.

    Keep adding the numbers of 56041 together to get a single digit and your get 16, add 1 and 6 and you get 7.

    0 has to be heaven

  10. Anyone who can write a villanelle in 2.5 weeks deserves free coffee in perpetuity.

  11. Childish Nightmare (and Villanelle)

    Shadows in the corners grow voracious with the night;
    Branches scratch the window as Sirocco whines then keens,
    Feel the panic mounting with the dwindling of the light.

    Breathe and breathe, close your eyes, try to sleep tonight,
    Head on pillow, thumb in mouth, close your eyes to dreams.
    Shadows in the corners grow voracious with the night.

    Bedroom door rattles when lightening spits sudden white,
    Cower under blankets from deep blackening that teems,
    Feel the panic mounting with the dwindling of the light.

    Timmy cries for mother dear and I for father’s might,
    Water pounds the panes of glass while baby kicks and screams.
    Shadows in the corners grow voracious with the night.

    Bats fly halls, music sounds in walls —cinematic spite—
    Floorboards crack under invisible feet, cat’s orange eye gleams;
    Feel the panic mounting with the dwindling of the light.

    Blood and guts, fangs and cuts, growls and bites, shrieks of fright.
    No one hears, no one comes, sleep flees elusive at ghoulish schemes.
    Shadows grow voracious in the corners of the night,
    Feel the panic mounting with the dwindling of the light.

    • A truly terrifying poem. This is why I sleep with a dog in my room. Between insomnia and bad dreams, night is hell. I read a lot.

  12. Blue Dog

    Take off, let go
    Cut loose, make flight
    Like a blue dog tripping through the snow

    Life is slow
    Who knows what’s right
    Take off, let go

    There’s no place to go
    Yet run with all your might
    Like a blue dog tripping through the snow

    White fields glow
    Blinding sight
    Take off, let go

    Your ears back throw
    Run past the fright
    Like a blue dog tripping through the snow

    Master calls, even so
    There still is light
    Take off, let go
    Like a blue dog tripping through the snow

    • For those who have come late to the conversation, Gary is referring, nay, obsessing to/on an earlier post that contained a photograph of my dog Lucy. It may help to understand him if you look at the picture, but then, perhaps not.

  13. A very nice rat photo, Gary. You may not remember this, but when my boys were younger we kept rats here as pets. There were four altogether. I can’t remember all their names anymore; Rex, Deadly and two others. I would take them out and let them run around my desk. They would race over the keyboard and type little rat messages, sometimes whole packet letters. Possibly you got one of those. I wrote a very affecting essay about a rat death watch which coincided with a reading of the great shipwreck scene in David Copperfield. What has this got to do with villanelles? I don’t know. I’m waiting for someone else to enter.

  14. Geez, Doug. I sent you over 60 pages in this last packet. I didn’t think you’d surface so soon! (: Perhaps I should have sent a story about rats.

  15. With apologies to the other contestants…Let’s just say that when one finds his muse (or her muse) there’s no need for false modesty. I’ve not booked my ticket to Stockholm yet, but I did make a reservation at a hotel there. I also wonder posting here violates some of the financial terms that Knopf that will undoubtedly offer…no matter. A poem like this has to be shared with the world. Considerations be damned. For those of you not familiar with the show, Paris Hilton’s British Best Friend, shame on you. I will not stoop to explain the beauty, the wisdom, the grace that is, Paris Hilton.

    (Okay, I’ll stoop a little: in the season finale, Paris chose a new best friend…it wasn’t me.)

    Paris H: A Dream Deferred

    Paris, oh Paris, my beauty, my muse,
    How I long for your wit, your style, your grace.
    But another you’ve chosen and I you must lose.

    You’ve picked a best friend, but his love you confuse
    He wants only your shopping bags, limos and lace
    Paris, oh Paris, my beauty, my muse.

    I’ve waited with patience but my heart you refuse.
    My world has been shattered; my life a disgrace
    But another you’ve chosen and I you must lose.

    I’d have booked us a cabin, on a round-the-world cruise
    We’d have walked the streets of Troy, Minoa, Thrace
    Paris, oh Paris, my beauty, my muse.

    I’ll continue to love you and hope that you’ll choose
    As Rilke once said, “vicinities then, from an irresistibly swung-up-to place,”
    But another you’ve chosen and I you must lose.

    It’s more than your smile, your legs and your face
    It’s the sound of your voice which sets my heart in a race.
    Paris, oh Paris, my beauty, my muse,
    But another you’ve chose and I you must lose.

  16. This is tragic, this is why I rant
    My words squeak against silence, boots on snow
    I want words to do magic and they can’t.

    I want words to put cold towels on your eyes
    Un-knot your shoulders, crack your toes
    This is tragic, this is why I rant.

    I have nothing but words to touch you with tonight
    A thousand poems; still you can’t remember what you used to know
    I want words to do magic and they can’t

    I want words to fill the air like the smell of cut grass in the morning
    To buffet you like a storm, to make the north wind blow
    This is tragic this is why I rant

    I want a legion of words to bring us together
    An army gladly slaughtered for one ‘hello’
    I want words to do magic and they can’t.

    Language is futile, I scribble in vain
    With nowhere for the words to go
    This is tragic this is why I rant
    I want words to do magic and they can’t.

  17. Your rats have inspired me, Doug, as has Elizabeth Bishop. I’m not sure the formatting here will hold. Fingers crossed, because the line endings are seriously business.

    The Art of Ratty-ness

    The art of being ratty isn’t hard to master;
    so many people seem filled with the intent
    to be like rats. And ratty-ness is no disaster.

    Try being ratty every day. Accept the fluster
    of uncaging inner rats. Days spent
    on the art of being ratty aren’t that hard to master.

    Then practice ratting farther, ratting faster:
    Sharpen your teeth like a rat, get mentally bent
    like rats, since ratty-ness is no disaster.

    I ratted out my inner Cat. And look! my last, or
    next-to-last, of three inner Hamsters went.
    The art of being ratty isn’t hard to master.

    I lost an inner Dog, a blue one, loved. And, vaster,
    an inner Whale that sang, an inner weeping Elephant.
    My inner rat destroyed them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

    –And then my inner rat ate you (confession: I was plastered),
    my inner Muse, as if you were a hot dog wrapper on the floor. It’s evident
    the art of being ratty’s not too hard to master
    though it may look like (Write it! No, don’t write it!) like disaster.

    • That is, SERIOUS business. As in, important to the form.

      • Sunday morning and I am still coming to grips with my inner Dog and my inner weeping Elephant. Suddenly my psyche is transparent and all the contradictory elements have names. You could write a book: Letting Your Inner Animals Run Free.

        Oh, wait. Didn’t Freud write that one already?

        • Did the formatting work correctly?

          • The formatting is fine – I just didn’t know if the lines would be too long and end up wrapping. Or rapping. Or ratting.

            Thanks for the praise re: The Art of Ratty-ness. I hope everyone knows that this is not really mine – I piggy-backed (oh, there’s another animal running loose) on E. Bishop’s The Art of Losing.

            Right now, I’m intrigued by Gary’s numerology experiments. I tried very hard to write a villanelle called Zero Has to Be Heaven but it just wouldn’t come. Instead, Ratty-ness came. That’s the way the Muse works.

            Doug, I think you are mistaken about Freud. He wrote “On NOT Letting Your Inner Animals Run Free.” It was Carl Jung who first came up with the theory of Inner Animals. Only he called them Animus.

      • I just read E.B.’s “One Art.” I like Ratty-ness better, better voice, much more oblique, more incisive. I also like the experiment with line breaks.

        Pigs — hmm.

    • I love this Julie!

  18. Blue Dog 2: A Romance

    I have a dog named Villanelle
    His gums are red, his coat is blue
    My boy and I both think he’s swell

    His teeth are yellow and they smell
    When he smiles there’s sloppy goo
    That dog of mine named Villanelle

    He runs off like a bat from hell
    Won’t do a damn thing we tell him to
    But my boy and I still think he’s swell

    He cannot rhyme, much less spell
    Instead of triplets, he makes two
    I don’t know why we named him Villanelle

    Yet we never took his parts to the vet to fell
    To his own self we let him be true
    Because my boy and I think he’s swell

    Now the neighborhood has begun to fill
    With other dogs with coats of blue
    That dog of mine named Villanelle —
    My boy and I both think he’s swell

  19. Il Cane Blu:

    Tornatore dirige este episodio del film La Domenica Specialmente, en el que también participaron Giuseppe Bertolucci, Marco Tullio Giordana y Francesco Barilli. En Il Cane Blu, un perro azulado sigue a un hombre, el cual trata de quitárselo de encima sin conseguirlo. Finalmente se desembaraza de él regalándoselo a su hermana. El perro se escapa y el hombre sale en su busca hasta que lo encuentra.

    (Tornatore directs this episode from the film La Domenica Specialmente (Especially Sunday), in which Giuseppe Bertolucci, Marco Tullio Giordana and Francesco Barilli also took part. In Il Cane Blu, a bluish dog is following a man, who is trying in vain to get rid of him. Finally he offloads him, giving him to his sister as a present. The dog escapes and the man goes out searching for him until he finds him.)

  20. A Mad Girl, revisited*

    I press a button and the phone is dead;

    I press once more and it’s born again.

    (I would like to erase you from my head.)



    Thoughts of you: first gold then red,

    When lonely darkness canters in:

    I press the button and the phone is dead.



    You would call after we’d been to bed
    Whispering moons and stars, tickling me insane.

    (How I wish to erase you from my head!)



    But now the phone lies silent, near the bed we’ve made:

    Exit angels while Lucifer’s men

    tell me: zap a button and he drops dead.

    I have waited, just like you bade

    me, But winter’s here and still no change
    (I must erase you from my head.)



    I should have loved a blue dog instead;

    Roamers but then they trip on back again.
    I pull a trigger and you drop dead.
    (I have erased you from my head.)

    * Thanks to Sylvia Plath who provided much in the way of inspiration.

  21. Here’s a villanelle inspired by the challenge, and in homage to all the others entered so far:

    Contest

    The gauntlet cast, the poets gather
    to scratch their offerings on this wall
    to joust, to parry, to spur each other

    on to greater feats of flight and blather
    to spam, to rant, to have a ball.
    The gauntlet cast, the poets gather

    mad girls, inner rats, capricious lovers
    take up the glove and heed the call
    to joust, to parry, to foil each other

    to suffer through a spot of bother—
    heartsick, sleepless, up for a brawl
    the gauntlet cast, the poets gather.

    Dogs and muses, dreamers hover
    limousines and elephants crawl
    to joust, to parry, to spur each other

    to ever sharper foils and feathers
    to yelps of “Villanelles for all!”
    The gauntlet cast, the poets gather
    to spur, to cheer, to join each other.

  22. My daughter was three when I wrote the original poem; as I remake it into a villanelle, it’s all come true.

    Three

    Staring at my daughter until my eyes begin to blur
    There’s a grace to parenthood, so there must be a fall
    Watching and watching and watching her

    I gaze at her, skipping away in her purple dress
    She seems somehow miniature, not small
    Staring at my daughter until my eyes begin to blur

    A cameo impression of a future self
    Going to work in the morning, going to college in the fall
    Watching and watching and watching her

    Striding across some future lawn
    Self-assured, independent, happy, tall
    Staring at my daughter until my eyes begin to blur

    I miss her already, I cannot see her enough
    Human perception starts to pall
    Watching and watching and watching her

    Indicted by a future self for the crime of divided attention
    I say nothing, though I lift my head to call
    Staring at my daughter until my eyes begin to blur
    Watching and watching and watching her.

  23. Villanelle No. 1

    The slate on Peter’s Church is shined with rain.
    Crows on its weather vane are stiff and cold.
    Below, a quiet man — a fool, a stain.

    A vista! There! Just past my window pane,
    Walls falling on a rectory of gold.
    The slate on Peter’s Church is shined with rain.

    Beneath that holy roof they hide in vain.
    No place for godless men to be consoled.
    Below, a quiet man — a fool, a stain.

    What milestone revealed the truth was plain . . .
    That golden cross, which hangs until it’s sold?
    The slate on Peter’s Church is shined with rain.

    Behind the clouds, a moon to wax and wane.
    A lightning rod defies its iron mold.
    Below, a quiet man — a fool, a stain.

    You wrote a poem rife with crows and pain,
    And found a god because you’d gotten old.
    The slate on Peter’s Church is shined with rain.
    Below, a quiet man — a fool, a stain.

  24. Hey, Sandy! Good to hear your voice. V.

  25. John Hollander wrote a neat little book on poetic forms called “Rhyme’s Reason,” in which he explicated each form by using the form itself. For those who are unfamiliar with it, here’s his villanelle on the villanelle:

    This form with two refrains in parallel?
    (Just watch the opening and the third line.)
    The repetitions build the villanelle.

    The subject thus established, it can swell
    Across the poet-architect’s design:
    This form with two refrains in parallel

    Must never make them jingle like a bell,
    Tuneful but empty, boring and benign;
    The repetitions build the villanelle

    By moving out beyond the tercet’s cell
    (Though having two lone rhyme-sounds can confine
    This form). With two refrains in parallel

    A poem can find its way into a hell
    Of ingenuity to redesign
    The repetitions. Build the villanelle

    Till it has told the tale it has to tell;
    Then two refrains will finally intertwine.
    This form with two refrains in parallel
    The repetitions build: The Villanelle.

  26. Disclaimer: I write fiction, not poetry. But the villanelle challenge was too tempting to resist. I will also post of photo of the inspiring snakes if I can.

    Water snakes

    Water snakes pulse in twining surrender,
    draping and looping a branch in the sun.
    Never was cold-blooded love more tender.

    This is how snakes mark the end of winter.
    Hours may pass before they are done.
    Water snakes pulse in twining surrender.

    Hope against hope that he’ll not offend her
    the male slithers over the female he’s won.
    Never was cold-blooded love more tender.

    That no chance of parting will love-making hinder,
    tails are plied like wool yarns, hand-spun.
    Water snakes pulse in twining surrender.

    She has no need for reptilian big spenders;
    she makes no promise to be true to one.
    Yet never was cold-blooded love more tender.

    Lyrical moves over a river render
    the promise of life to come.
    Water snakes pulse in twining surrender.
    Never was cold-blooded love more tender.

  27. Here is a link to a photo taken by my husband, Steven David Johnson

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendavidjohnson/4570424879/

  28. One day when I was an orchestra coach at a school in New York, I was cleaning out an instrument storage room that no one had cleaned out for years when an old violin case high up in the shelves caught my eye. I gingerly took it down and opened it to find only a bunch of strings, a broken bridge, some tuning pegs, and a bow with the horse hair all loose. Too lazy to take inventory, and not sure if the bow wasn’t worth something, I decided to put the case and all its contents back on the shelf and leave it for another day. But as I put it away, a worn piece of paper fluttered down. I picked it up and read this poem with a title suggesting that it was part of something larger. It’s tale of illicit attraction? Love? remains a mystery to me. I never knew it was a villanelle until now.

    From The Lives of the Musicians

    Oh Patrick you and I were friends
    Playing from the timeless score
    As colleagues in a symphony.

    Against the wooden wall your timpani thundered,
    In a stream bed of chairs my violin wept
    Oh Patrick you and I were friends.

    While you measured time, I stretched space
    Though I could pluck a rhythm, and you could pitch your rhyme,
    As colleagues in the symphony.

    My bow, your sticks, they struck together!
    Beethoven’s Ninth united us —
    Oh Patrick you and I were friends.

    Child Mozart kept our distance
    (Me in his blood, you in his beat)
    As colleagues in the symphony

    Until we began exchanging notes,
    A stolen rest, a forbidden key —
    Oh Patrick you and I were more than friends,
    Colleagues in our symphony.

  29. Trying to get ready for a date
    I never manage on the first try
    This is a genetic trait

    My Dad and I, though rarely late,
    The universe upon us does fie
    Trying to get ready for a date

    Whether sauce, or tooth paste
    Or perpetually tying a tie
    This is a genetic trait

    Wondering when to defecate
    For if I fart she’ll probably die,
    I think, getting ready for a date

    All our jeans are dirty, such is fate
    No spelunking the day before next time
    This is a genetic trait

    Murphy’s Law attacks us in a spate
    But eventually Dad and I
    Get ready for our dates
    This is a genetic trait.

    • Although how the winners will be chosen hasn’t been specified, just in case this is going to be a democratic process, I’d like to enter a preliminary vote for Jake, if only on the grounds of superior entertainment value.

      All those in favor of hearing from Jonah say Aye.

  30. Um, need I point out that the parallel between dg and Jacob is a poetic conceit, a formal necessity that bears no relation to the suave and debonair reality that is moi.

  31. Damn it…I think my Paris Hilton poem might be in trouble. I could have used Jacob’s advice when courting Miss H.

  32. Villanelle No. 2

    There are stories to write and books to be read!
    You must write every day! That’s what they all preach,
    Yet here I am cleaning and dusting instead.

    Why not ponder and think from the warmth of my bed?
    Snuggle up with a notebook, some coffee, a peach?
    There are stories to write and books to be read!

    There’s Glover, and Munro, and writers long dead,
    Whose wisdom and insight and brains I should leech,
    Yet here I am cleaning and dusting instead.

    I don’t mind revision, the blank page I dread . . .
    I’m trying! I’m trying! I don’t need a speech;
    There are stories to write and books to be read!

    Visions of novels, ricochet ‘round my head.
    A wealth of instruction within an arm’s reach,
    Yet here I am cleaning and dusting instead.

    A picnic perhaps, mountaintop with some bread?
    Why not grab some whiskey and head to the beach?
    There are stories to write and books to be read!
    Yet here I am cleaning and dusting instead.

  33. Among the Sheepfolds on Evergreen Drive

    I purified myself in the middle of his sheepfold
    Unto me, the Lord spake unto me
    You now clean are the most bold.

    Coveting my neighbor’s wife in the cold
    I shivered, waiting, stooped on one knee
    I purified myself in the middle of his sheepfold

    I stood wiping the dirt from my pants, now soiled
    His garage light illumined a voice screamed hoarsely
    “You now clean are the most bold”

    Running away from my peeping knoll
    I tripped and fell face first into dog poopee
    I had to purify myself in the middle of my sheepfold

    Trudging, embarrassed, broken and old
    Back to my home, I wander piously
    Thinking, you now clean were once so bold.

    Walking into my backyard, I fell over a chair which folds
    Mentally noting to work on my agility
    I purified myself in the middle of my sheepfold
    Whispering, you now clean are the most bold.

  34. Okay. I had a lovely Mother’s Day and I’m ready to try something more serious than Ratty-ness. Not TOO serious, but moving that direction:

    AT PLAY

    This is the way I play:
    cultivating the Art of the Clever
    whenever I have nothing to say.

    I’m upset with Cleverness today
    though sometimes he’s my lover.
    This is the way my head plays

    with me, the not quite innocent way
    a lover does, our purposes severed
    whenever my heart has nothing to say.

    My heart, my head – their display
    of appetites in me is hand delivered.
    This is their way – the play’s

    the thing wherein the bray
    of Head projects while Heart withers,
    having nothing quite as loud to say.

    Head, Heart whispers, find a clever way
    to end this. Do it one way or another.
    This is the way I play
    whenever I have nothing to say.

  35. At the risk of performing poetry in public and falling flat on my strictly prose face, here is my humble, and probably excrutiatingly lousy excuse of a villanelle. (God save us all.)

    Love the golden boy now, when youth misperceives
    the future’s reckoning,
    and love does not fear the toll of need,

    only separation, betrayal, loss and a devastating end
    Revel instead in attraction’s blind narcosis
    Love the golden boy now, when youth misperceives

    Sisyphean will be the eon ahead
    when irreconcilable weakness will force choice
    and love will begin to fear the toll of need

    Drown, succumb, deny, adore,
    believe, forget, appease, ignore
    Love the golden boy now, when youth misperceives

    the subtle evidence that your heart’s object
    will fail to adore your future soul
    and willfully fail the toll of need

    But youth is, was, ever will be, our glory
    and our folly; velvet memories of adoration
    Love the golden boy now, when youth misperceives
    and does not fear the toll of need

  36. Actually, that should have been, committing public poetry, as the prior may have been a felony.

  37. Anibelys and Danny are two seventh graders I tutor in Massachusetts. They composed this villanelle last Thursday and have decided to enter it in this contest. Here’s how they wrote it: Most of the time, Danny’s head was on the table, underneath his elbows. Anibelys looked wary. I asked Danny for the first line. “What’s it gonna be?” I asked. He told me. Then I asked Anibelys for something that worked with Danny’s sentence. So we had our two lines. I dragged the words out of them, sometimes one by one. Then I read them their poem.

    I don’t know
    if you know
    how to read.

    What the heck
    are we doing?
    I don’t know.

    Hi. My name’s Bill.
    Do you know
    how to read?

    No. Can you
    lick the floor?
    I don’t know.

    Sleep. Sleep some more.
    Let me dream
    how to read.

    No. I will not.
    Achieve.
    I don’t know
    how to read.

  38. Villanelle Entry

    I come to lay my head here among the dead
    The path that leads to you is filled with tears anew
    The hill where we once played, I wait for you in vain

    My soul can hear my heart, the fear, the pain, the start
    The breath, my breath, the moment
    I come to lay my head here among the dead

    I hear the din review when it comes to you
    The dirt is turned, inviting, I cry, I cried, I lie
    The hill where we once played, I wait for you in vain

    The folks whose names I know wait for me I’m told
    The moss,the green,the damp, the moonlight on the path
    I come to lay my head here among the dead

    Overgrown,cracked,treading,the trees,the stones,the pond
    What was it all to you?
    The hill where we once played, I wait for you in vain

    The dark I do abode
    Who am I? I can not tell
    I come to lay my head here among the dead
    The hill where we once played, I wait for you in vain

  39. Lovers and daughters slip and stray,
    Laughing ungently at outstretched heart.
    They will not linger; they cannot stay.

    Like an errant skiff pulled from the cay,
    The undercurrent serving its treacherous part,
    Lovers and daughters slip and stray.

    Shout from the shore, drink the drowning day,
    Forget they planned to leave from the start.
    They will not linger; they cannot stay.

    Usher them toward safety into the quay,
    Clasp them tight even as they depart;
    Lovers and daughters slip and stray.

    Still they go, they slide away
    Like souls, they’ve mastered that sweet art.
    They will not linger; they cannot stay.

    Let them go and learn to pray;
    Navigate by a new star chart.
    Lovers and daughters slip and stray.
    They will not linger; they cannot stay.

  40. David Helwig sent this villanelle in by email and said I could post it as long as I made it clear that, to quote him, “it drove me to conclude that the villanelle can’t be resurrected, probably even as comedy. To make it truly comic you’d first have to get it right technically, and by then you’re off in rhymie heaven. Where I settled down.”

    It’s far out of fashion, neat metric and rhyme,
    the wonder of music, the music of wonder;
    as words reappear in the quiet of time,

    where the minutes attending our passion or crime
    would summon a language of perfect surrender.
    It’s gone out of fashion, neat metric and rhyme:

    not even the old now remember the prime
    of pattern and thought linked like lightning and thunder,
    right words that appeared from the quiet of time.

    Like a telephone call home that’s made for a dime,
    like pages that prompt a reply to the sender,
    it’s gone out of fashion all metric and rhyme,

    though poignant and vivid as limbs posed in mime,
    the syntax precise, never marred by some blunder,
    as words reappear in the quiet of time.

    Still, addicted to intricate subtleties, I’m
    trapped like you others who can’t deny splendour,
    though far out of fashion like metric and rhyme,

    though our words disappear in the quiet of time.

    • David also said that he doesn’t enter contests anymore unless there is a Golden Age category for people over seventy–thus this villanelle probably doesn’t constitute a full on entry, a just a dust devil on the edge of the tornado.

      • Nobody does humility like a Canadian!

        • I guess so. And, not being Canadian, I say this poem’s entered! It doesn’t seem fair otherwise. Dash it all!

        • I didn’t start out being humble, honest, lifelong Canadian though I may be, but after whittling away for a while I looked at the thing and thought–“This shows why, though I’ve written rhyming poems, even some wonderful sonnets, I’ve never finished a villanelle before.” As I said, you end in rhymie heaven dancing with rhymie angels.

  41. Cat and Mouse

    Hobbes the cat is so fat
    He can’t catch the mouse
    The mouse at Doug’s house

    Even though he is on a diet
    I can barely lift him
    Hobbes the cat is so fat

    Hobbes is sleeping on the bed
    The mouse is creeping on Doug’s head
    The mouse at Doug’s house

    Pet me, brush me, feed me now
    I want food “meow meow”
    Hobbes the cat is so fat

    Sneaking, peaking,squeaking
    Up and down the stairs
    The mouse at Doug’s house

    Around and around they run
    Eating food is so much fun
    Hobbes the cat is so fat
    The mouse at Doug’s house

  42. Okay, I need to respond here. Sage is the daughter of a friend of mine and she hasn’t been to my house for a few months and Hobbes has lost a lot of weight since then. Really. He is a sleek, mean cat who brings living chipmunks into the house. (Remember that post?)

    On the other hand, there is a mouse and Hobbes seems to have befriended it. At least, there is no hunting going on in the kitchen. The mouse has not been crawling on my head as far as I know. This part of the poem is poetic license.

    On the other hand, it’s a pretty good villanelle!

    • I read the poem to Hobbes. He thought it was excellent and did not mind the reference to his earlier weight problem. He is very proud of his new trim svelte lanky figure. He thinks Sage is a promising young poet.

      I am setting a trap for the mouse.

  43. My Triumvirate

    I taste your earth, and sky, and sea,
    Still stippled by stars hangs your long night;
    Wound in sacred geometry.

    Tarnish the shackles of symmetry,
    Dust them tenderly in magic white,
    I taste your earth, and sky, and sea.

    Trust Pythagorean symphony.
    Set adrift seamen who wail at their plight,
    Wound in sacred geometry.

    Great granddaughters of Ananke!
    You shame your Mothers with bloodshed and smite.
    I taste your earth, and sky, and sea.

    Your work is simply alchemy,
    You are crisp flint for soul sparks of light,
    Wound in sacred geometry.

    Never a Jeptha for liberty,
    My battle, a battle, the battle for right.
    I am your earth, your sky, your sea,
    Wound in sacred geometry.

  44. OK, here goes:

    A Contest Villanelle

    A contest villanelle I tried to write
    For literary blog Numéro Cinq
    The project kept me up night after night

    In fear of penning something that was trite
    Each time I faced the page, I drew a blank
    On this damned villanelle I tried to write

    Both writer’s block and sleep I tried to fight
    My eyelids and my spirits, they both sank
    With efforts to stay up night after night

    Unshowered and unfed, I looked a fright
    My clothes were wrinkled and my hair was lank
    Oh, curséd villanelle I strove to write

    Of coffee, now, I cannot bear the sight
    A hundred cups, in all, I think I drank
    In hopes of staying up all bloody night

    Now, through the tunnel, I can see a light
    The gods I bow to, and the Muse I thank
    For this sad villanelle I had to write
    Which effort kept me up, night after night

  45. It’s rough, but fun to write.

    Since I woke up this morning
    I hit my head on the head board
    i should have stayed in my bed

    the damn dog is whining at the door
    and NOW she’s shitting on the floor
    Since I woke up this morning

    and now the cat wants it’s word said
    and it won’t stop screeching until its fed
    i should have stayed in my bed

    and as i walk out into the rain
    upon my head God’s urine’s pouring
    Since I woke up this morning

    yet onto school, oh what a hex
    I left my work upon the desk!
    I should have stayed in my bed

    and math begins to take its course
    or curse? the devil now hath done his worst…
    Since I woke up this morning
    i should have stayed in my bed
    THE END

  46. * Please look at the picture before reading the poem.

    http://picasaweb.google.ca/104273608551440301547/Riley#

    Darwin’s Unlikely Hero

    Riley is a superhero,
    If you’re hurt or filled with dread,
    When in trouble just dial zero.

    He donned his cape and flew to Cairo,
    Rid the joint of living dead.
    Riley is a superhero.

    The senate screamed, “Oh no, not Nero!”
    Through the waves in aid Ry sped,
    When in trouble just dial zero.

    He lost the scent but found a gyro,
    No hunt in Greece but still well fed,
    Riley stays a superhero.

    Undercover as De Niro,
    Hollywood lights went to his head,
    But still…when in trouble just dial zero.

    Armed atop Kilimanjaro,
    Terrorists’ fates rest unsaid.
    Riley is a superhero,
    When in trouble just dial zero.

  47. I’ve been told that if I admit there is a God, and swear that He prevented me from making this post in a timely manner – OR – if I acknowledge the limits of the unmedicated mind, then I can sneak this little villanelle in at the thirteenth…fourteenth…twentieth hour. Hmm… But what’s to stop me posting without these concessions? Perhaps a lightening bolt? I’ll risk it in order to be part of the fun.

    Tsunami Watch

    We wait for a change we can see,
    Beside one another on a seatish rock
    On the inside edge of the sea:

    Gulls lift all at once, barges swing on slimy
    Rodes, that hummock was more submerged thirty seconds ago—
    We wait for a change we can see.

    Everything is a sign or just the way it ought to be.
    Does the ocean swell? Do I?
    Inside the sea that is inside me?

    Avid, I take the measure of each reed,
    As if it is my first morning temperature.
    We wait for a change we can see.

    You take a photograph and call it “before tsunami.”
    You look right into us—I, off, for some small mark
    On the inside edge of the sea:

    An indication that we, at least, will not be
    Swept out with the tidal surge as
    We wait for a change we can see
    On the inside edge of the sea.

    • There will be some dispute over the rules here. If you read the fine print, you will find a provision that stipulates that if the contestant is willing to sign an affidavit such that the work in question was written before the contest deadline and that the contestant intended to enter ON TIME but that an ACT OF GOD or an accidental intake of psychotropic drugs prevented her from entering by the contest deadline, the work in question will be allowed.

      Official Contest Ruling

  48. People’s Choice..under 18, and over 18

    It’s rough, but fun to write.

    Blue Dog 2: A Romance

  49. To be my usual compulsive self:
    There are 28 entries–3 by Gary; 2 each by Natasha, Steve Axelrod, Sandy Breiner, Jake, and Julie Larios; and one each by RJ Farrell, Kim Aubrey, Anna Maria Johnson, Robin, Grace, Gwen Mullins, David Helwig, Sage Zimmerman, Michele Irwin, Vivian, Jonah Glover, Sarah, Ade M, Julie Marden, and Julie/Danny/Anibelys.
    –Should we vote for an under-18 and an over-18 poem and, if so, how do we know which is which?
    –Is there a deadline for voting?

    • The last contest took maybe a week for all the votes to come in. So we’ll say a week. Votes in by midnight next Saturday.

      We have to decide whether to have an under age category first. Should we. And not 18. Under 16.

      Under 16 (Minnow class)
      Over 70 (Golden Age)

      Or just everyone in one big mess?

      • I think there should be two classes but then the kid can decide which class they want to be in. Because what if the kid wants some real competition.

        • Yeah, this might be the way to go. But then we’ll have to hire extra staff to keep track of which people are opting in or out of the NC Minnow class. It could get complicated for the judges and the judges have very short attention spans.

          This is a quandary.

          • You could always write the names down, then you’d only have to remember where you’d written them.

            I’d like to be in the Minnow class.

            • Minnow category requirements: birth certificate and two pieces of photo ID and two letters of recommendation from prominent church officials in your community.

      • I think there should be an underage category. Like you said, it would be unjust to compare the juvies to the practiced and fully developed minds of the NC sharks. I want to optimize my chance of winning the reward. (Consider a hot chocolate instead of a coffee to go along with the $25,000…)

        • …go along with the WHAT? I think you misread the prize list. I’m sure it said 25 cents. In fact, I have the fine print right here. Yes, “in exceptional cases a munificent award of 25 cents may be offered in lieu of coffee.”

          To think that at your age you are confusing the pursuit of art and the pursuit of money when everyone on NC knows you can’t make a dime out of this business.

          We might think of calling the juvenile category the Barracudas after this.

  50. Another question: Does an act of god include having a 2-1/2 foot diameter sugar maple fall down in one’s yard, crushing the fence and narrowly missing the garage and a flowering crabapple tree that I’m particularly attached to? (That’s what my insurance company says it must be.)

    • If there is such a thing, then yes. But if there is a God, would He really smite a crabapple with a sugar maple but spare a garage?

    • That’s the walking definition of an Act of God.

      • No friend to sugar maples, He.

        • I commiserate. You should see what He did to my willow tree, raspberry patch, AND crabapple tree last fall! The crabapple barely survived with just its main trunk and one small shoot remaining rooted. The fallen willow looked like a desperate sea monster, sprawling over the yard.

          • I didn’t see it fall, but I heard it. It was pretty alarming, even though I live in the woods, and hear trees fall down from time to time. This one was very close. The tree guy had it completely removed the next day, but I’m still waiting for the fence guy to come.

          • But he is benevolent as well. He sent a tornado that took half the family cottage but left my grandmother sleeping soundly in her bed.

  51. Pray tell, how does one vote?

    • Vote by inserting a comment with your preference on the People’s Choice post (now at the top of the front page of the blog).

  52. I’m not sure this is the right place to vote. However, my choice is:

    Sandy Breiner’s Villanelle No. 2

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