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Welcome to the NotGraphs Villanelle Challenge

Posted By Patrick Dubuque On January 7, 2013 @ 12:30 pm In Poem | 5 Comments

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The winter season and its accompanying ham-based feasts have left all of us – yes, I mean all of us – somewhat indolent. The wire is quiet this time of year, the football playoffs are full of shouting and trumpet fanfares, and even hockey has crawled out of its burrow and glimpsed its own shadow, ensuring six weeks of a regular season. To stave off this baseball hypothermia, I issued a Villanelle Challenge to the esteemed authors of this fair site, its readers, and by extension, the world.

“What is a villanelle?” those of you with useful undergraduate degrees might ask. Wikipedia explains it best: “A villanelle (also known as villanesque) is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.” Or, as Robert Wallace put it: “There are enough villanelles in English to convince us that poets like to make trouble for themselves.” Here are a few famous examples.

As with any real contest, the NotGraphs Villanelle Challenge offers no rewards and holds no serious purpose. Those who would like to submit their own poems can do so through the hotline; by the end of the week they will be read, judged with the utmost partiality, and the best of the best will be posted here on Friday. Think of the glory! Think of conquering the most imposing, ridiculous monument in English-language poetry! Think about finding a rhyming dictionary!

But first: a villanelle about the newly unemployed Rick VandenHurk.

VandenHurk

The Tale of VandenHurk

Beware the tale of VandenHurk, my friends.
Time and turbulence defy us all.
No matter what the plot, each saga ends.

He made his voyage from the Netherlands
Beginning as a tempest, now a squall.
Beware the tale of VandenHurk, my friends.

At first one sees one’s unpaid dividends
And verdant Spring follows from every Fall –
No matter what the age, each season ends.

For perfect as the pitch each man intends
The efforts of good men fly o’er the wall.
Consider those of  VandenHurk, my friends.

These somber truths we too late comprehend
Reliving glories, tinged with alcohol.
No matter what the plot, each saga ends.

There is not always time to make amends.
For VandenHurk, there’ll be no curtain call.
Beware the tale of VandenHurk, my friends.
No matter what the plot, ours too will end.


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