Friday, February 06, 2015

Trying my hand at a villanelle



At the start of the year my online group of poetry sisters decided to challenge ourselves with writing and posting poems all year with a different form for each month. January was triolets, and February has been all about Villanelles. I have to confess I have really struggled with this one! I had a story I wanted to tell about my young son and his first taste of hot peppers, but try as I might I could not wrestle that story into the strict form of a villanelle.



Wikipedia explains the structure this way: "A villanelle (also known as villanesque) is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines."

I really love the bounce and swing of the repeating lines. But boy, howdy this was a struggle! I did some free writing, made lists of verbs and rhyming end words, wrote some free verse, and wrote many drafts. I took advice from Kelly on how to use a table first made by Trisha in a Google doc, with the rhyme scheme and repeats laid out down the left hand margin. I listened to Tanita when she reminded me to develop a strong couplet in the first stanza to carry the repeats and build tension. Eventually I gave up trying to tell the whole story of how we came to grow hot peppers on the windowsill, and just tried to focus on the seed. After weeks of wrestling with it, I told myself if it was still a stinker by Thursday night I wouldn't post it at all. But low and behold, I refused to give up!



I scribbled a lot in my writing journal, and then put the draft up on a Google doc my poetry sisters and I were sharing. Reading and discussing their drafts and hearing their comments on mine was the fun part! With their encouragement and suggestions I did a lot of editing, rearranging, walking away, coming back, scowling and sighing. What I ended up with I will share here, but I consider it still a draft. There are still some bits that snag on my tongue. I will keep working on it, but for now here it is:





THE HEAT IS IN THE SEED

A seed discarded is not lost;
the smallest flame contains the spark.
For every blooming there’s a cost.

These faded buds their zest exhaust,
so sunlight fades into the dark.
A seed discarded is not lost.

Hot pepper’s fire is quickly tossed
(those pretty pods pulled on a lark),
for every blooming there’s a cost.

Hanging fruit turns ripe by frost;
or drops to dirt to leave its mark.
A seed discarded is not lost.

The sweet of fruit - to some mere dross;
young flowers knew it as an ark.
For every blooming there’s a cost          

and in time’s sand a line gets crossed;
I tell you, listen and remark -
A seed discarded is not lost;
For every blooming there’s a cost.

 -Andromeda Jazmon

Please visit my Poetry Sisters' blogs and read their lovely villanelles:
Tanita S. Davis, Tricia Stohr-Hunt , Laura Purdie Salas Liz Garton Scanlon, Kelly R. Fineman, and Sara Lewis Holmes

And don't forget to visit the Friday Poetry Round up hosted by Elizabeth Steinglass.
Enjoy!



22 comments:

Sara said...

I understand you still want to play with this draft, Andi---but OH! I think it's lovely as it is. That gorgeous idea that "for every blooming there's a cost" which you develop throughout the poem---so good. I also kind of want to steal your title, or at the very least, grab it and sit with it awhile: The Heat is in the Seed. How true.

Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Yup, Sara, that's what I've always heard about hot peppers. The seeds are the strongest carrier of the heat. Isn't that something?

tanita✿davis said...

DITTO WHAT SARA SAID. I really respect the work you did - taking it apart and putting it back together. I tend to scrap rather than repair, I'm afraid, with my poems...

And even your layout is beautiful. Oh! Those peppers! At this moment, I long for the growing season...though, for every blooming, there's a cost...

Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Ha! That's the thing, Tanita. I usually don't work this hard to fix a poem. I just give up and move on. :) And, this is really the first time I ever tried to grow hot peppers on the windowsill... and to be successful? Wow! They are so beautiful! I don't even eat things that hot as a rule. I had to send my harvest to my oldest son because he is the only one in the family that would truly enjoy them. LOL Really, I was just doing it to see what would happen.

Karen Edmisten said...

Oooh, wow. I'm impressed. I think it's wonderful. Like Sara, I understand the feeling of wanting to keep tinkering, but I think you've really nailed something here. And I love the theme that for every blooming there's a cost. Well done!

Kelly Fineman said...

I agree with Sara and Karen that this works really well as is. (And, of course, I've been privy to some of your prior drafts - I suspect you are viewing this poem with those drafts in mind. It is a thing of beauty as it now is.)

Liz Steinglass said...

You did it! I love your repeating lines.

Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Liz, Kelly, Karen, thank you so much! Your words mean the world to me. I am feeling greatly relieved to have come through this!! :)

Robyn Campbell said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely!!! It works well for me. But I understand the poet's mind. So I get your struggle. How many times have I been in your shoes. BUNCHES. Ha. Thanks for sharing. I don't think Elizabeth is hosting the roundup. I finally gave up on checking. Have a great weekend.

Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Robyn, thank you for your kind words! I had a hard time finding the right Friday Poetry round up post, but this one is correct: http://elizabethsteinglass.com/2015/02/poetry-friday/ Good Luck!

liz-scanlon said...

To me, the "seed discarded is not lost" is really a powerful metaphor for the things in life -- the experiences, the habits, the parts of us -- that we toss off, only to realize they are still there in there, growing us into whatever's next. Just like THIS POEM. You discarded pieces of it, Andi, but look what it became! Oh my goodness. I love it.... Go You!!!

Buffy Silverman said...

I really enjoyed reading this--love your repeating lines--and that wonderful title!

Tricia said...

My favorite line is like an anthem - "A seed that is discarded is not lost." I think this is a beautiful poem. You wrestled with it and won!

Robyn Hood Black said...

Andi, so glad you shared despite your struggles: "editing, rearranging, walking away, coming back, scowling and sighing" - ha! So true for poetry. You really do have something HOT here - many rich images and suggestions bundled up in that seed....

laurasalas said...

This is just beautiful, Andi. On this read, I'm especially struck by "Hanging fruit turns ripe by frost;" It put the picture in my head of hanging fruit that turns ripe but isn't picked or eaten. It's funny how decadent and wasteful that feels, and yet your poem wonderfully reminds me that it's NOT wasted. Some of our fruit is consumed. Some is disbursed to grow elsewhere in places we may never see. Some is just there, and beautiful, and must be enjoyed as such. Thank you for making me think more carefully about this, and for sharing your poem even when you feel it still needs work. That is brave. And I think your villanelle is wonderful!

Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Thank you all so much for the encouragement! I am waking up happy from reading this!

Mary Lee said...

Lovely! And I imagine the cost was his burning tongue?

jama said...

Really like this, Andi -- and admire your tenacity to get it just right. Love how you carried through your central idea of "for every blooming there's a cost" --
also the "heat is in the seed" leaves the reader with a surprising kernel of truth to ponder.

Doraine Bennett said...

Nice work, Andi. You did a great job with those repeating lines. These things are hard to write!

friendlyfairytales.com said...

That was lovely and full of the essence of spice. The form is exceptionally hard, but I agree it's worth sweating over these projects, because when they come together, they really shine.

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

What a wonderful first draft you have here. Clearly you have poured much thought into this. Lovely.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Very nice! I have not yet had the courage to even try a villanelle, so good on ya for committing to see it through! Your poem reminds me of when I used to live in NM and one of my friends taught me how to make red chili from a ristra. The hottest chili I've had in my life. A few too many of those seeds will blow your head off!