Monday, May 31, 2021

Repetition and imperatives in villlanelles

The villanelle's repetitions make it effective for going around in circles. Dylan Thomas's 1947 "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" repeats imperatives to the poet's father; Elizabeth Bishop's 1976 "One Art" uses them to talk herself into not feeling overwhelmed by loss. Responding to 9/11, Jay Parini's 2002 "After the Terror" saves its imperatives for the beginning of the final quatrain: "Believe in victory and all that jazz. / Believe we're better off, that less is more." The after-effects of 9/11 come up in Tracy K. Smith's 2011 "Solstice", but its single imperative question is not one of the repeated lines: "Remember how they taught you once to pray?" (Andrew Shields, #111words, 31 May 2021)


Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop receiving the Neustadt Prize in 1976


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