I happen to love formal poetry—and by that I mean poetry that adheres to a particular structure or set of rules, not poetry in top hat in tails. I happily read free verse, but there’s just something about a poet mastering a form (or sometimes breaking from it in a meaningful way) that tends to make my verse-loving heart go all aflutter.
As regular readers know, I do write poetry myself, but I have never written a satisfactory villanelle. When I read a masterful one like Anthony Lawrence’s “My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night” (out in this month’s issue of Poetry, dedicated to Australian poets), I almost want to stop trying.
At first I thought the poem would be about the speaker’s beloved reading poetry (as in the way we might say “She turned back to her book”), but instead the speaker imagines her as poetry. It’s simply gorgeous.
Probably most famous example of the villanelle—at least in English, at least; French speakers, do weigh in—is Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night” (used to great effect in Interstellar, now that I think about it), but I’ve always been partial to Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”
What’s your favorite villanelle?