Inspiration incarnates itself in a variety of mediums to a willing artist. It sometimes is grand and bold, but other times inspiration can be a quiet quirk, a small snippet of conversation, or a picture of the inward workings of a typewriter.
I was originally planning to simply share a poem today for the reason that it is one of my poems I believe can stand on its own fairly well. However, after some consideration, I have decided to go ahead and write a bit of background on what a villanelle is and how I was first heard of this particular form of poetry.
It was through a podcast in the fall that I was introduced to the existence and form of a villanelle (pronounced something like “villain-el”).
A villanelle follows the structure of five tercets (sets of three lines) and is concluded by a quatrain (a set of four lines). There are only two rhymes throughout, following the pattern of a-b-a … a-b-a etc. Finally, the first line and the third line of the first set repeat alternatively at the end of each tercet until the last stanza when they are lines 3 and 4.
That was a mouthful of information but as you read the poem it will make more sense. A very well known and traditional villanelle is Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night. It is an excellent poem and worth your time if you have not read it before, or if you have, but would like to revisit and savor it again.
When I wrote my poem in the fall, I only knew 1.) I wanted it to be a villanelle and 2.) I wanted the first line to be “we found inspiration in the weirdest places” – a line which had been tumbling around my head that week.
We found inspiration in the weirdest places It clung to our shirts like pocket lent. True! Ideas and brilliance live in the strangest spaces. You’ll never know which you’ll choose, or the appearance of their faces Until it happens (or until which will - more accurately - choose you). Personally we found inspiration in the weirdest places. There are ideas that even the smallest crevices encase, Like insects creeping on a screen door and then through. Ideas and brilliance live in the strangest spaces. Genius is not always grand like Van Gogh’s ornamental vases, Or trumpeting itself like an E Flat Rondo, Hummel trumpet concerto. Merely, we found inspiration in the weirdest places. Ideas may come wrapped in bows tied from shoelaces, The chewed up dirty kind (you, yourself may own a few). Ideas and brilliance live in the strangest spaces. If you look directly, understand they’re easy to displace, But if you leave a little room, and let yourself listen too, We found inspiration in the weirdest places. Ideas and brilliance live in the strangest spaces.
Villanelles did not take long to grow into my new formal-poetry-structure-obsession (I go through phases?).
I have bookmarked many villanelles now such as Richard Frost’s Villanelle of the Circus Villains, which has an interesting rhythm and dark undertones. (Though the fact I am drawn to circuses of any kind after reading Circus Mirandus and The Bootlace Magician might factor into my liking of that one as well.) Another bookmarked treasure, Lullaby in Fracktown, I thought was stunning when I stumbled upon it.
Villanelles I think in general have very interesting tones to them, especially with the repetition, which can be very cleverly used in different ways (Ghost Villanelle being an example here).
For my poetry class this past year, I had the idea to print a picture of the sky I took in order to paste it into my poetry journal along side the poem it inspired. I loved the outcome so much that I told my younger brother that he should send me pictures to write poems about and include them in my fattening poetry journal (which is very fat indeed and only has a few pages left… also the cut up sky picture + poem, you can see in my poetry journal tour if you’re interested ;)).
When I returned from searching down some pens, he already had taken some pictures for me and they were delightfully weird, such as underside of the top plate on my brother’s typewriter.
So inspired, I went on to write a villanelle about the sink in our basement, and then later in the semester a sonnet about our dying dishwasher. I’m strangely fond of (and perhaps a little obsessed with?) personifying anything and everything: from my family’s old minivan to the soap bottle at one of my brother’s apartment.
One, after all, does find inspiration in the weirdest places.
Have you ever written a villianelle? What is the weirdest place you have found inspiration?