{pf: p7 revisits the villanelle}

HAPPY NOVEMBER…! I always love to see this Auden quote, because truly – we’ve got mixed feelings this month, and I think autumn is a great time for that. Ah, November – the month wherein we can give up on hosting summer and urge it gently, but firmly, out the door. Of course, Utah and Colorado have already been doing the ushering, but a rather presumptuous winter is trying to shove in early… I blame the people putting up winter decorations in October. It, like everything else inharmonious, is the fault of Christmas lights…

Happy autumn to those of you, who, like me, are recovering from smoky air and a sense of helplessness as once again, the whole state burns, and to those of you sick to death of politics, which should cover just about everyone else from two nations (Hi, Britain!) visiting this blog. May this month bring something brighter to us all – even if it’s just a few minutes going outside and looking at the stars in silence. Monterey Bay Aquarium 05While it’s not star-gazing, I’ve been grateful to to the aquarium recently. Autumn is the perfect time to visit, when it’s not blistering hot and people aren’t diving into any air-conditioned room to escape the heat. The Poetry Sisters’ villanelles this month celebrate an escape from heat, as I challenged us to embrace a wintry topic, including a pair of words (or homonyms thereof) from the following: bleak, draft, gutter, chill, chime, glitter, gust, harsh, rime, nip, thaw.

The villanelle remains a tricky poem of couplets, and my first attempts were a little grim – these aren’t light, cheery words necessarily, and somehow, I got stuck in the death part of the end of the season… but then, I tried to turn that around. Certainly, as the liturgy says, “in the midst of life, we are in death” – all the time, really, as human beings are constantly dying on even a cellular level… and for me, the dying has been closer to home with catastrophically ill relatives and the fires statewide reminding us of all endings rather forcibly. However, there must be opposites in order for things to be seen – light in dark, life in death, beginnings in endings. I look forward to seeing how my fellow poets shaped these ideas into their own art.

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Laura shot to the head of the class and turned her poem in early. (The rest of us are super envious of this organization.) Tricia powered ahead with hers next. Proving that poetry happens anywhere, Sara slipped hers in at a conference. Liz’s is delightful, despite her frustration. Rebecca’s may yet turn up. Kelly and Andi are hopefully feeling better today.

Reading back over years worth of Poetry Seven poems of mine, I note in the past I’ve had a tendency to be… maudlin. Grim. And then, about a year or two ago, the trend changed and my poems became grimly… hopeful. Honestly, it makes for a strange change. I’m not a Pollyanna, and I refuse to play the glad game, but, somehow, I have learned that it is a strength of mine that is sometimes required, to be able to find the shining bit of steel reflecting the light at the bottom of the pile of crud. Not everyone can find that glint of steel – sometimes I can’t either. But, when I can, that steel stiffens my own sinew so I can hold onto others scrambling out of the hole. Sometimes. It’s not a sure thing. But, it’s a gift that I hold dear – becoming less dramatically emotional and cynical and more solidly pragmatic, and even in trouble, able to move. I’ll take it.

Beauty in the Bleak

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Seek beauty in the bleak, solace in pain,
While sun veiled black as wreaths of flame ignite –
Sing harsh from strangled throat this brave refrain.

On stubbled hills abandoned by the rain
Where arid landscapes glitter with frostbite
Stirs beauty. In the bleak, in spite of pain

Deniers fail to see in their disdain
That beauty is the human soul’s birthright:
Sing harsh from strangled throat this brave refrain.

Drink deep of beauty – let others abstain.
Look! See the art lent to mere parasites!
Sift beauty from the bleak – so soothe the pain.

To comprehend a loss, to triumph sane
Wait – with your focus ever on the bright.
Harsh songs from stinging throat, brave you remain.

Will comfort in the dark, will peace maintain
As hands outstretched you fumble toward the light.
Seek beauty in the bleak. Solace in pain,
Sing harsh from strangled throat this brave refrain.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeats at The Opposite of Indifference. There you’ll find more beauty for the taking – may you be able to reach for it despite blistered hands, breathe it in despite a stinging throat, and live within it all month long. Happy November.

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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My favorite stained glass window… in a grocery store. Why not?
Glow bravely wherever you are, friends.

4 Replies to “{pf: p7 revisits the villanelle}”

  1. Grimly hopeful–that made me smile, Tanita. “even in trouble, able to move” — yes. There is so MUCH pain in the world. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find beauty, but it’s there, and if we don’t seek it out, we can forget it’s there and lose all hope. Thank you for this poem. I’m sharing it with a couple of people who do this, who find beauty in the world even while experiencing nearly unbearable pain.

  2. “That beauty is the human soul’s birthright” . I truly believe this, and after my vacation out West, I believe it even more. Beauty is everywhere, and if we choose, we can let it seep into our bleak souls at any time and become more at one with the world. Thank you for this, dear not-so-grim one.

  3. You did manage a lighter tone, despite the bleakness of these past weeks (years?), but I liked that you put in “Deniers fail to see in their disdain/That beauty is…” Wishing all would see that change has happened, is happening. Thanks for the Auden quote!

  4. Happy November to you. I love your poem of hope (and the closing quote is a perfect complement). It’s devastating to see footage of the wild fires; the feelings of helplessness must be overwhelming for so many. Hard to believe it’s happening yet again. The grocery store stained glass window is too cool . . .

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