Saturday, January 21, 2012

More Descort

The Byronic stanza, of course, had ended with a couplet, and I decided to take that couplet, sandwich a third line in the middle, and make it a villanelle stanza. But you can't really give the flavor of a villanelle in one stanza, so I had to write the whole villanelle.

Here the question of form dictating mood gets a little wobbly. Certainly it's possible to write a comic or sardonic villanelle. The form is wonderfully flexible, and if you don't believe me, look at the new anthology edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Eizabeth Mali. (I'm in it -- not with this one -- but there are lots of real poets, too  -- using that famous question that was put to Carl Sandburg -- "are these real poems or do you just make 'em up yourself?")

Anyway -- forms that use repetition can be playful and not so playful, and of course the blues goes in both directions too.

I think there's a real connection between the blues and the ghazal. But use repetition, both come from Africa, and both frequently make use of the poet/singer's name. I don't think there's much likelihood of a cultural connection between the blues and the villanelle, but as Joseph Campbell pointed out, we're all part of one big mother myth, and there are many cross-cultural correspondences.

So I found myself going back to the grim fatalism of "Betty and Dupree" with the villanelle, but I also found myself being more literary -- the villanelle pushed me that way, as a blues would not.

His mind was fixed. He took a .44,
The frame was cool and dry; the grip was warm.
To get that ring, he’d rob a jewelry store.

No use to try and hold him back—the door
Clicked softly shut behind him. Like a charm
Or talisman, he held his .44.

You knew that this would be a night for gore.
He smashed the glass with gun and bloodied arm,
And blindly crashed into the jewelry store.

He scarcely seemed to care what lay in store,
And, heedless that he’d triggered the alarm
He grabbed the ring, and waved his .44.

He killed two cops, and wounded several more.
Then, weary in his soul, and sick of harm,
Threw down the ring, and fled the jewelry store.

The law all vowed they'd even up the score.
Dupree beat west, and hid out on a farm
With no companion but the .44
And stalked by nightmares of the jewelry store.

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