Posts Tagged ‘Villanelle’

The one that says there isn’t any pain

December 10, 2016

zzgears

Monitor the voice inside your brain
Don’t scamper and pretend it isn’t there
The one that says there isn’t any pain

Listen for your truth and don’t campaign
Focus on yourself and don’t compare
Monitor the voice inside your brain

The voice that tries to keep a body sane
The voice that keeps repeating, “I don’t care”
The one that says there isn’t any pain

Repeat, repeat, repeat a lie in vain
Anesthetize against the truths that scare
Or monitor the voice inside your brain

Live your hurt and don’t deny the rain
Analyze your thoughts ever aware
Of the one that says there isn’t any pain

Release your mind and jettison your chains
A universe awaits you if you dare
To monitor the voice inside your brain
The one that says there isn’t any pain

by Richard W. Bray

Seven Ways of Looking at a Line of Poetry

November 6, 2016

zzwaking

Anthropologists tell us* that “some time between 75 thousand and 60 thousand years ago” homo sapiens underwent a remarkable change (194). This event occurred “somewhere on the African continent (most likely somewhere in its eastern or southwestern regions)” (193). Suddenly, our already impressive brains developed the capacity for symbolic thought. Our ancestors, who heretofore merely consisted of roving bands of uppidy carnivorous weapon-wielding bipeds, were transformed into artists, shamans, scientists, and engineers. World-domination was now only a matter of time.

These new-and-improved brains rendered representational art, handicraft, metaphor, music, dance, language and poetry essential to our existence.

As Kurt Vonnegut notes, this spectacular transformation gave us not only the capacity and the inclination to produce Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; it also gave us the capacity and the inclination to

burn people alive in the public square for holding opinions which were locally unpopular, or build factories whose only purpose was to kill people in industrial quantities.

I’m seriously into words. I have argued that it’s ultimately impossible to separate language from poetry because our ancestors began playing with words as soon as they began to invent them. Uttered phonemes are automatically poetic just like every basket and every arrowhead homo sapiens produce is a work of art.

Death and disruption at an early age hurt Theodore Roethke into poetry, as W. H. Auden suggests “mad Ireland” hurt W.B. Yeats into poetry. And oh what prodigious poetry Roethke did make! I’m going to spend a little bit of time talking about how to say the third line of a villanelle Roethke wrote called “The Waking” because my brain spends a lot of time thinking about such things.

A villanelle is a nineteen-line Italian form in which the first and third lines are each repeated three times. (I’ve written a few of them myself.) (A smartass once wrote on this blog that “the cool thing about villanelles is that once you’ve written the first three lines, you’re 42% finished.”)

Here’s the first stanza of Roethke’s “The Waking.”

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

I told you the dude was prodigious, right? Anyhow, the first and third lines of a good villanelle must be firm and flexible as much heavy lifting is expected of them. Here are some examples:

Time will say nothing but I told you so.

(First line of Auden’s “If I Could tell You”)

(I think I made you up inside my head.)
(Third Line of Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song”)

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

(Third Line of Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”)

Now back to “The Waking.” If a reader must read the same lines four times in a nineteen-line poem, the poet should provide her with options about which words to stress. Here are seven ways to say line three of “The Waking”:

#1 I learn by going where I have to go

Learning is about destination rather than free will.

#2 I learn by going where I have to go

The essential lesson is in the destination

#3 I learn by going (pause) where I have to go

The journey, so to speak, is the destination.

#4 I learn by going where I have to go

The lesson is in the doing.

#5 I learn by going where I have to go

The important thing is that the experience is educational.

#6 I learn by going where I have to go.

It’s imperative to take a certain route that is nonetheless educational.

#7 I learn by going where I have to go.

I find out what I’m supposed to do only by doing it.

Art inevitably pops up wherever you have people and it’s our sacred duty to make it available to our children. (But this isn’t another jeremiad about those sick, sad losers who think our children are merely their test scores).

by Richard W. Bray

*Ian Tattersall, Masters of the Planet

life only hungers for itself

October 31, 2016
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, I Shall Forget You Presently, My Dear

Human beings want power, love and pelf
Existence has a conflict at the core
Cuz life only hungers for itself

Sacks of need that always need to tell:
A song, a cry, a whisper and a roar
Human beings want power, love and pelf

With gluttony for ethereal wealth
We parcel and distribute shore to shore
But life only hungers for itself

Consume, consume, consume and shit and swell
An appetite that always asks for more
Human beings want power, love and pelf

We choose up sides, make teams, and then expel
Imaginary lines that lead to war
But life only hungers for itself

We take and trade and name and buy and sell
Our vanity forever keeping score
Human beings want power, love and pelf
But life only hungers for itself

by Richard W. Bray

Money and Bullets and Boots and Blood

May 25, 2014

Afghan men search for the bodies of people killed in a NATO airstrike in Logar province

We have what it takes to set you free
Money and bullets and boots and blood
We’re everything that you want to be

The model of modern society
Wash away fossils in crimson flood
We have what it takes to set you free

Inside you is a another form of me
We’re putting our values out to stud
We’re everything that you want to be

We’re the glory of all humanity
So embrace your liberation, Bud
We have what it takes to set you free

Steaming hot piles of Democracy
Fashioning our dominion of mud
We’re everything that you want to be

Bombs build dreams like factories
Shimmering cities on a hill of crud
We have what it takes to set you free
We’re everything that you want to be

by Richard W. Bray

Perhaps

February 22, 2014

Love enemies

Those people loved their children too?
Afghanistan and Viet Nam
Pardon me; I never knew

Now they’re just a mass of goo
Or cinders left from firebombs
Those people loved their children too?

Lives destroyed and bodies strewn
Interrupting morning calm
Pardon me; I never knew

They’re savages, what can you do
But kill them all with robots bombs?
Those people love their children too?

Are they just like me and you?
Earnest dads and doting moms?
Pardon me; I never knew

I’ve been told; it must be true
They’d kill us all without a qualm
Those people love their children too?

Perhaps someday we’ll have a clue
Perhaps we’ll send them love and alms
Perhaps we’ll love their children too
Pardon me; I never knew

by Richard W. Bray

The Misanthrope’s Prayer

July 4, 2013

misanthropy

People are a waste of time
With all their petty wants and needs
Alone I’ll get along just fine

This putrid planet is not kind
It spawned a dirty wanton breed
People are a waste of time

Humans beings: a horde of slime
A mass of filthy carnal deeds
Alone I’ll get along just fine

Creation is a wretched crime
A dirty lot it grows and feeds
People are a waste of time

If someone would just cut the vine
And scatter all the human seeds
Alone I’ll get along just fine

I curse the careless cold Divine
His ghastly garden full of weeds
People are a waste of time
Alone I’ll get along just fine

Richard W. Bray

Wastingtown, DC

April 26, 2013

We’ll spend the people’s money as we please
Entitled to an endless building boom
Living in the District of Disease

We’ll charge a tariff every time you sneeze
We’ll tax your rest when you are in your tomb
We’ll spend the people’s money as we please

It’s still your country we just hold the keys
It’s still your cloth, but we control the loom
Living in the District of Disease

Be sure to pay your taxes and your fees
We need it to enlarge the endless room
We’ll spend the people’s money as we please

We won’t stop until you’re on your knees
Our project calls for universal doom
Living in the District of Disease

We squeeze and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze
And everybody else can suck on fumes
We’ll spend the people’s money as we please
Living in the District of Disease

Richard W. Bray

Dreamsuckers

March 20, 2013

politician

a politician is an arse upon
which everyone has sat except a man

—e.e.cummings

With greed that festers like a stinking flower
Every breath you suck promotes a scheme
The only thing you care about is power

Glory-seeking minions don’t see how you’re
Warping minds by tapping ageless themes
With greed that festers like a stinking flower

All you see are lambs to be devoured
With gluttony that feeds on hopes and dreams
The only thing you care about is power

If I were you I’d always need a shower
You curdle filth and throw away the cream
With greed that festers like a stinking flower

Lackeys sing your praises by the hour
Like starstruck fans support the local team
The only thing you care about is power

Piling up your lies, you build a tower
And live a life that’s nothing like it seems
With greed that festers like a stinking flower
The only thing you care about is power

Richard W. Bray

Pain

August 15, 2012

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—

—Emily Dickinson

 

 

Pain’s not something I should fear
From feel to think there is no line
Pain got me from there to here

I try to keep my feelings near
What else is completely mine?
Pain’s not something I should fear

My troubles aren’t for you to hear
I’m not the type to sit and whine
Pain got me from there to here

Pain is something I hold dear
Bounty from a winding vine
Pain’s not something I should fear

I think I’ll have another beer
I won’t stop till I’m feeling fine
Pain got me from there to here

My shaking hands must be a sign
All night long my teeth will grind
Pain’s not something I should fear
Pain got me from there to here

by Richard W. Bray

Like we Love our Kids

November 28, 2010

Like we Love our Kids

Someday we’ll pay for all the things we did
We broke some stuff and made some noise
We love our soldiers like we love our kids

Methods and motives are better left hid
Nothing’s too good for our girls and boys
Someday we’ll pay for all the things we did

Missed every birthday, but I always did
Send a little box of love and joy
We love our soldiers like we love our kids

The mighty don’t fall so much as they skid
Lives and countries have been destroyed
Someday we’ll pay for all the things we did

Love ain’t cheap, so what’s your bid?
Can’t you see how much we spend on toys?
We love our soldiers like we love our kids

War and kids: Patriotic joy
Up too close they begin to annoy
Someday we’ll pay for all the things we did
We love our soldiers like we love our kids

by Richard W. Bray