Lost in Translation – A Villanelle

dan emily
Here lies inebriated Emily, NYE 2015.

A villanelle is a poem form with some strict rules. It has 6 stanzas, each with 3 lines (except the last which has 4). The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the final line of the second and fourth stanza. The third line of the first stanza is repeated as the final line of the third and fifth stanza. Then they both get repeated in the sixth stanza. Oh, and they have to rhyme. I only learned all of this today, when I had to write one for my poetry class tomorrow. It was, as with all of the poetry exercises I’ve been doing, at first frustrating, then restrictive, then fun. And the results are… I’m not sure.

So here’s my own example and, underneath, a beautiful villanelle by Elizabeth Bishop. It’s a poem which I’ve liked for a long time but only just discovered was a villanelle (seeing as I didn’t know villanelles existed until today.

Emily x

Lost In Translation

There’s no poetry in sobriety,
only the algorithm of being clean.
Only the cold mirror of chastity.

I inspire your animosity.
You find me now too prim; pristine.
You see no poetry in sobriety.

Your Merlot mocks my earl grey tea.
By spilling. You wish to make a scene.
Confront the cold mirror of chastity.

I mop the mess with efficiency.
You find my earnestness obscene
and see no poetry in sobriety.

I wait. Hands clasped. Sit matronly
as you take to the streets for nicotine.
But the cold mirror of chastity

awaits. And I watch warily
As you light up: daring me to intervene.
To prove there’s no poetry in sobriety;
To crack the cold mirror of chastity.

*

One Art – Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
 .
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
 .
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
  .
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
  .
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
  .
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
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