(Poem #1948) The Grammar Lesson
A noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does. An adjective is what describes the noun. In "The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz" *of* and *with* are prepositions. *The's* an article, a *can's* a noun, a noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does. A can *can* roll - or not. What isn't was or might be, *might* meaning not yet known. "Our can of beets *is* filled with purple fuzz" is present tense. While words like our and us are pronouns - i.e. *it* is moldy, *they* are icky brown. A noun's a thing; a verb's the thing it does. Is is a helping verb. It helps because *filled* isn't a full verb. *Can's* what *our* owns in "Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz." See? There's almost nothing to it. Just memorize these rules...or write them down! A noun's a thing, a verb's the thing it does. The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.
What always fascinates me about villanelles is the various ways poets deal with the repetition inherent in the form. The one inescapable thing is that this repetition *does* have to be dealt with, and that it is often a major force in the shaping of the poem - pronouncements about form not dictating content notwithstanding. Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is without doubt the most celebrated example of the English villanelle, and with reason - it is, to my mind, a perfect study in how to make the form work to reinforce the content and tone, with never a hint of awkwardness or constraint. Along other axes, humorous poets have used the structure of the villanelle to poke fun at itself, experimentalists have seen how much they can bend the form without it breaking, and, of course, countless poets have simply ignored the fact that the form does and should influence the content, and repeated the end lines mechanically and without regard to their contribution to the flow and progress of the poem. Today's poem caught my eye for yet another clever take on making the repetition work for the theme - in the context of a grammar lesson, repeating a sentence again and again with minor changes rung upon it makes perfect sense - is, indeed, almost inevitable. I love the way Kowit makes it seem that the villanelle form itself fell out of the requirements of the subject, rather than the other way around. In the grand scheme of things I'd say this poem falls somewhere between 'serious' and 'intellectual exercise' (with a dash of humour in the unexpected image of "this can of beets is filled with purple fuzz") - not by any means an immortal poem, but a very well crafted one, and definitely worth reading. martin [Links] Biography: http://www.flagstaffcentral.com/bookfest2000/Authors/kowit.html Kowit on deliberately difficult poetry [long but brilliant essay]: [broken link] http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/press/kowit.html