My Art – villanelle for dVerse. I

At 21 I thought I’d learned that art –
of losing. God, I was a fool.
What had I lost? A sliver of my heart.

I had the knack of holding just apart,
raising an eyebrow, looking pretty cool:
at 21, I thought I’d learned that art –

sometimes I thought that things would never start –
that life, and men, and love, were simply cruel.
What had I lost? A sliver of my heart.

“The art of losing” seemed to be a part
of my life – I lost keys and lovers, too –
at 21, I thought I’d learned that art –

but things that slipped and slid and fell apart
were nothingmuch. A moment’s pang, or two:
what had I lost? A sliver of my heart?

I learned that gaining sits at losing’s heart –
we grow through losing things, it’s true –
at 21 I thought I’d learned that art:
what had I lost? A sliver of my heart.

I’m hosting the “Form for all ” prompt at dVerse this month. We are working on our villanelles – such a beautiful form. This is my tribute to Elizabeth Bishop’s famous “One Art”.

My technique for writing a villanelle is fairly simple. I find a killer couplet, and then jot down a list of rhyming words for that. Then I write the first verse, and jot down a list of rhyming words for my middle line. Then I let the rhymes lead me – it’s almost a meditative process. You have to be careful about your key words though. Don’t choose something like “scissors” as one of your key rhyming words.

Please join us, and share your villanelling this month.

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25 thoughts on “My Art – villanelle for dVerse. I

  1. I like your technique Sarah of writing the villanelle. The ending lines would be the key as they are repeating in each stanza. As to the poem, 21 is too young to learn that art, smiles. Its true, we grow with losing stuff and people. Thanks for hosting our villanelle form challenge.

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  2. At 21 we thought we understood all the secrets of the universe–then at 71 we understand the limits of our knowledge; just a piece of the puzzle. I liked your explication regarding writing a villanelle. I do pretty much the same thing. When I think of it, we write a “killer couplet” to start off a pantoum as well.

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  3. Sarah, thank you for the writing tips. I used rhymezone to have rhyming words to choose from and did all of the A’s and a’s first then all of the B’s and it worked pretty well. The line that stands out for me is what I think is a volta (?) “I learned that gaining sits at losing’s heart –” where you stop and see the light. This is a beautiful point in your villanelle.

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  4. I like that you wrote a tribute to Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘One Art’, Sarah, and appreciate your tips on writing a villanelle. I also work from a couplet and a list of rhyming words. I love the ‘the art of losing’ keys and lovers – me too! I think I’m only just beginning to understand loss. Do we ever get back that sliver of heart?

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  5. Once again you proved my theory, that all the best poetry is about using simple language to convey a profound (in the sense of meaningful) message. I get so irritated with poetry that uses a string of dictionary words (often wrongly) to come up with some trite banality. There, I’ve come out 🙂

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