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Villanelle (minimalist): One Drunken Night -- Peter Schaeffer

(Poem #393) Villanelle (minimalist): One Drunken Night
 I think
 she'll pour
 my drink.

 I wink
 at more,
 I think,

 than minx
 who pours
 my drink.

 I sink
 to floor,
 and think

 she stinks!
 I roar,
 "My drink,

 you fink!"
 I snore,
 and think
 I drink.
-- Peter Schaeffer
What is a villanelle? "Seven-syllable lines using two rhymes, distributed in
(normally) five tercets and a final quatrain with line repetitions", saith
the Britannica, which also calls it a "rigorous and somewhat monotonous
form". Rigorous it may be, but half the beauty of a villanelle lies in the
poet's efforts to conform without lapsing into monotony. Indeed, by its very
nature the villanelle seems to cry out for some sort of wordplay or other -
it is hard to write an entirely 'serious' poem under the constraints[1].

The most usual form of wordplay is simply the setting up of the repeated
lines so that the word meanings shift and change. Schaeffer takes a slightly
different approach here - rather than trying to write so 'naturally' as to
distract attention from the rigid form, he embraces it for humorous effect.
For instance, in 'The Art of the Villanelle' (see links) he explicitly
comments on the repetition - "Attend this line, which you'll have heard.../
until you're sick of every word."[2]

Today's poem, on the other hand, uses a different technique - it strips the
villanelle of its usual trappings, simultaneously poking fun at both the
villanelle and at minimalist verse. (See also the last verse for an example
of villanelle-induced wordplay).

[1] making it all the more impressive when managed - as in Dylan Thomas's
classic poem (see links)

[2] see my comment on self-referential humorous verse, poem #194


Just over half a minstrels ago, we ran Schaeffer's mindbogglingly good
'Juggler, Magician, Fool - A Pantoum': poem #195

The canonical example of the English villanelle is surely Dylan Thomas's 'Do
Not Go Gentle into That Good Night': poem #38

which includes, as a bonus, another of Schaeffer's villanelles, 'The Art of
the Villanelle'

And for some lovely pieces of minimalist verse, see Pound's 'In a station of
the Metro': poem #319

and Corman's untitled poem: poem #348

- martin

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