Monday, 16 January 2012


A long day at university. Drop C off at her work and arrive at UEA at 8. Straight on with admin and marking the whole day, then home and more of the same. But the new Everyman Book of Villanelles arrives with my own contribution, the one about the children of the ghetto. I begin to scan the book and can see what a remarkable range of feeling and mood there is in it. But at the same time I hear the insistence due to repetition. The lines come back, the same lines, and somewhere in the very far distance it's like hearing jackboots.

I know this is fanciful but I write it down on Twitter now, where all the short thoughts go, and Bill Herbert replies in his playful way and talks about dance, along with a lovely verse. And I not only have to admit he is right, but rejoice in him being right, since it is dance I too look for in form.

And yet there is statement in poetry too: a declarative quality I associate with Shakespeare's sonnets, Marvell, Pope and Empson. Even in Bishop's great villanelle, One Art, there is the demand that the poem actually satisfies at the end. Write it!

Meanwhile, somewhere off to one side of it, the right side, there is a drunk who keeps saying the same thing over and over again. He shifts my mind to Jobbik, the Hungarian fascist party, and a line creeps into my head that goes, I hate the gyppos and the fucking Jews, as indeed they do, and, despite myself, a whole villanelle grows from that first line, something that horrifies me with precisely the jackboot insistence I first heard. I can't help writing it, because formally it stands to be written. I wonder if it is worth anything as a weapon against the very thing it says. If it is to be so it requires a subtle wit that undermines itself as it blusters, while at the same time being true to itself as a poem.

I am sitting on this villanelle for now. It's in a bad place in my head. It is right as it is, as form, but I don't know whether it can dance its way out.


Gwil W said...

I currently have a link to Martin Luther King Jr. in his own voice on Democracy Now! TV - maybe you could relink it to friends in Hungary? I think they need it. Maybe they never heard of the man?

George S said...

Thanks, Gwilym, I'll look. I'm sure they hate Martin Luther King too.