Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Villanelles 1976-2003

3 villanelles, published previously at WHCpoetrybridge, World Haiku Review 5-1, 2005

Three older villanelle's below. "War of Dreams" was the third villanelle I penned, just before our son enlisted in the Air Force, about 17 years ago (revised):

War of Dreams
DW Bender

The end of hope is never what it seems:
Men lose and gain in war a prize not planned
So sons must fight to win their fathers' dreams.

O Glorious Future beckons. Battle screams.
War heroes, good and bad die, bleeding men.
The end of hope is never what it seems.

Just one more killing field! Bright promise gleams
Right at arm's length; the end is near at hand,
So sons will fight to win their fathers' dreams.

Ripe fields of blood are harvested and gleaned.
Felled seeds of wrath lie shell-burst in the land.
The end of hope is never what it seems

And what is spawned of war, they did not mean.
Downed hope, redressed, is bannered once again,
So sons must fight to win their fathers' dreams.

Men fight and lose, yet victory and the things
They sought might come in other ways, but then,
The end of hope is never what it seems—
So sons fight on to win their fathers' dreams.


The following is the first villanelle I wrote, in the mid-1970's during a poetry seminar held by Salvatore Salerno at Johnson County Community College, Jacksonville, NC. He had warned us against using trite phrases and cliches in poetry, end-rhymes such as "night, bright, light." So I, of course, got silly and made a poem just to use those words as end rhymes. I would have used "moon, spoon, June," too, but thought better of it, in lieu of making at least a halfway decent poem.

The Finger Pointing to the Moon
DW Bender

The moon you gave to me and all its shine.
I, being blind, had only seen the night.
Without the vision, I can't know what's mine.

The moon, you said, is like a silver dime.
You tried in vain to make me see the light;
The moon you gave to me and all its shine.

We've touched the moon. It's not so far in time.
I felt the coin's edges, thin and slight.
Without the vision, I can't know what's mine.

The moon has eyes, but cannot see its mime.
Its lifeless face reflects another's bright.
The moon you gave to me and all its shine.

Your finger pointed to the moon. We rhyme:
The moon and I are dark as sun is white.
(Without the vision, I can't know what's mine.)

To know the moon is having it in mind.
Your words gave this blind witness to your sight.
The moon you gave to me and all its shine;
Without the vision, I can't know what's mine.


I believe that "Alien Invasion was the 2nd villanelle I wrote, around the same time I wrote "War of Dreams." I don't recall which came first. At the time, I was working on a group of poems based on 1950's American culture.

Alien Invasion
DW Bender

..........(Don't touch that dial. we'll be right back!)

They came to earth to steal the minds of men;
We dare not say that we were unaware.
In black and white this truth is waived again.

Through tabloid hype and sci-fi's silver screen
We looked past Sputnik into future fear:
They came to earth to steal the minds of men

And saucer-eyed we begged them enter in,
Hypnotically enslaved by sightless stare
In black and white. This truth is waived again

Subliminally from images we've seen
And heard from channeled messages. Beware:
They came to earth to steal the minds of men!

In homes, the quasi life-form's "master plan"
Would change the world by mastering the air.
In black and white this truth is waived again.

And bit by bit we've changed to be like "them":
At finger's flick, antennae raised, we stare.
They came to earth to steal the minds of men.
In black and white this truth is waived again.

........ (Tune in tomorrow, same time, same station.)


"When All in Play" was written in the early 2000's, for fun.

When All in Play
DW Bender

When all in play I turn my words to sing,
and rhythms of far heartbeats mix with mine,
perchance the voice of my own soul shall wing.

In melodies of ancient shores that ring
I hear strange languages from other times,
when all in play I turn my words to sing.

Such cadences, so like, yet differing!
Should I delight to verse these friendly lines,
perchance the voice of my own soul shall wing.

But soft, what phrases rouse through wondering,
and make me wish to poem them into rhyme
when all in play I turn my words to sing?!

As psalms of mendicants and saints shall bring
together choirs of celebrants, sublime,
perchance the voice of my own soul shall wing.

O sweet, exotic music, let your strings
be in my ear and on my tongue in kind;
When all in play I turn my words to sing,
perchance the voice of mine own soul shall wing.

2 comments:

cordieb said...

I really don't know anything about this type of poetry, except that it is absolutely beautiful. It's like poetry, visionary art, and dance combined. Thanks so very much for sharing.

Debi Bender said...

Hi cordieb. The villanelle is one of my favorite forms after haiku and tanka. Becuase of it's mnemotic repetition of the two lines, along with other end rhyme, a villanelle can cause phrases or the entire poem to sound incredibly profound or deliciously blasé. This repetition reminds me of holy scriptures, and may be a powerful psychological and poetic method for memorization as well as imparting a deep impression of a particular communication's importance.