Archive for the ‘villanelle’ category

9/11 (Villanelle)

September 11, 2016



The burning buildings woke me from a sleep
of what I thought important, nothing now.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street,

praying that my child was mine to keep,
dear god oh please dear god I whispered loud;
the burning buildings woke me from a sleep.

Some stopped to stare, all of us to weep
as eyes replayed the towers’ brutal bow.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.

North sky a startling blue, the south a heap
of man-wrought cloud; I pushed against the crowd;
the burning buildings woke me from a sleep.

I’d never complain again, never treat
with trivial despair–or so I vowed.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.

I’d change, give thanks—I saw them leap—
and begged for all the grace God would allow.
The burning buildings woke me from a sleep;
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.



This is an old poem (approximately 15 years old in fact).  Am posting in memoriam and gratitude too, for the grace that I was allowed that day.

Pic is slightly newer, also mine, al rights reserved. 


Certain Songs (A Villanelle) With Turnips

October 25, 2012


Certain Songs (A Villanelle)

There are certain songs most poets like to jive —
your true love swoons, pretty tunes of longing so,
but some rhymed hearts need rougher food to thrive–

They just can’t drink deep from a honied hive,
even buzz-fudget around ‘hey dilly-do’
(which is a certain song some…um… poets jive.)

They skip the main course, focus on the side,
sing odes to turnips (forget the tournedo)
for these rhymed hearts need rougher food to thrive.

Oh sexy blue jeans ‘cross the blue-smoke dive;
oh peeling rose; oh first grade talent show–
are certain songs most poets like.  But to jive

in harsh-of-day-job unjust world, abide
on uptown curb the homeless crusted toe
that’s sometimes rimed–  Hearts need rough to thrive,

survive.  Suffering plumbs throat with sharp salive,
an acid against those lumps that keep voice low
in certain songs.  Most poets like to jive,
but some rhymed hearts need rougher food to thrive.


Agh!  I am posting this draft villanelle to dVerse Poets Pub’s Form For All hosted by the wonderful Samuel Peralta.  The odd thing was that I am so worried about the election that I started this villanelle focusing on the line –  “Osama’s dead and GM is alive”–but somehow could never work it in.  Yes, I know.  I need to calm down!  (And also, I think all poets pretty much deal with rough emotions.) 

You can hear the poem below.  It’s not the greatest reading, but does help delineate the pauses. 

The villanelle is one of my favorite forms, mainly because it has a built-in music.  (And also because you don’t have to come up with so many lines!)  Check out dVerse for more.  If you are interested in other (perhaps more polished) ones of mine, click here.    Actually, the most fun one is probably an illustrated one I did as a children’s story called Villain-elle.  (With elephants.) 


Weather or Not – Villanelles (Traveler’s Wedding Side by Side A Nap)

July 7, 2012

Monsoon Skirt

I am posting the villanelle below, an older one, for dVerse Poets Pub Poetics challenge, hosted by the wonderful Stu McPherson, to write a poem influenced by the weather.   To spice up this villanelle a bit, I have made a doublespeak audio recording of it,  pairing it with another villanelle called “The Nap (Post-Fight)” (whose text may be found here.)   I personally find the mixed audio more intriguing than reading the single villanelle bel0w–there is a really odd music to two villanelles together, that, as incomprehensible as the words are, kind of transcends the texts –at least my texts!

Traveler’s Wedding/Nap (ITunes)

Travelers’ Wedding – Bangkok

The monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey
as sweat like traffic stalled the steaming city.
It didn’t feel much like the first of May,

not even in his shirt saved for the day,
nor in the Indian skirt she’d thought so pretty.
The monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey

as they hurried to the bureau where they’d say
“I do”, or if required, some learned Thai ditty.
It didn’t feel much like the first of May;

still was, and, as they found, a holiday.
Closed office doors made clean clothes somehow gritty;
the monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey.

“Tomorrow then,” they sighed, feigning dismay,
and then made jokes that almost passed for witty.
But it didn’t feel much like the first of May,

stained, like his shirt, with portent and delay
as sweat, like lifetimes, stalled throughout the city.
The monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey;
it didn’t feel much like the first of May.


Thanks for your patience with this new technique!  I definitely have a long way to go with it.  K.

Accident? Parody? Double-speak? (Tribute to John Cage?)

July 5, 2012


As some of you may know, I’ve been experimenting with audio versions of poems. Here’s one that happened accidentally. I originally  linked it to With Real Toads, which had a prompt of self-parody of one’s own poetic style, since it arose from my fascination with villanelles.  ( Everyone’s there was super clever and funny by the way – check them out!)

Then dVerse Poets Pub had a wonderful prompt on the modern, posted by the brilliant poet Charles Miller.  And, frankly, the Sixties – which this sound poem focuses on seems to be as modern as I will get tonight.

So here goes.  FYI, John Cage is a very cool modern composer, one of whose most famous pieces is 4’33” (pronounced “4 minutes and 33 seconds”) which consists of three movements of silence.  (All instruments are instructed to keep quiet.)

This is not silent! And it does give a picture of facets of modern life i.e. (i) multi-tasking, (ii)  low-tech meeting higher tech, and (iii) minds  getting stuck in grooves.   So, give it a click!


Here are links to the text versions of the poems, Swimming in Summer, and Flag (After Vietnam)

“Flag (After Vietnam)” (A Villanelle – Spoken)

July 4, 2012

“Flag” drawing by Diana Barco

As a child, I was a school patrol, charged with the raising and lowering of our school’s American flag each day.  This was actually a very solemn post which certainly required as much care as directing kids across streets.  There were strong rules back then about the handling of the flag; these were, of course, affected by the protest movements of the Sixties, but also (perhaps even more) by subsequent commercialism–i.e. using the flag as a pattern for everything from shower curtains to napkins.  Then came all the business with the lapel flag pin, where use of the flag became incredibly polarized (and almost co-opted by various political movements.)

After 9/11 – let’s say on September 12th–flags were briefly solemn images of unity, but  their use soon became (to my mind at least) very polarized again, and somewhat jingoistic, with flags even used as antenna decorations.  As an old school patrol trained to run to retrieve and safeguard the flag at the first sight of a raindrop, I found these frayed and faded car flags rather troubling.

At any rate, here’s the poem AND a taped reading.  I urge you to check out the tape.  A villanelle on the page can seem incredibly inane–this one in particular, because its pauses that do not conform at all with the line or stanza breaks.

And finally, Happy 4th of July all, especially to my beloved country.

(Click the title for the spoken poem.  And honestly – if you are pressed for time,  click rather than read on.)

Flag (After Vietnam) Recording

Flag (After Vietnam) 

There were rules.  You weren’t allowed to let it
touch the ground.  If it did, it should be burned
or buried.  You couldn’t just forget it,

pretend it hadn’t slipped (if stained, to wet it)–
our trusted God would see and you’d be spurned.
There were rules.  You weren’t allowed to let it

rip or fray.  To be flown at night upset its
regimen, as it were.  The darkness turned
it into something buried.  Don’t forget it,

leave out in the rain; you had to get it
(getting soaked yourself, your last concern).
There were rules. You weren’t allowed to let it

pass—even at the movies, we would fête it—
until the Sixties came, and their war churned
and buried much—you couldn’t just forget it,

pretend we hadn’t slipped.  The fall begat at
least two flags—one paraded, the other mourned—
but just one rule—you weren’t allowed to let it
be buried; we couldn’t just forget it.

The poem is from Going on Somewhere,  by Karin Gustafson, drawings by Diana Barco, cover by Jason Martin. 

Audibly Swimming in Summer

July 1, 2012

Odilon Redon, “Ophelia”

So I thought it was too hot today to write a new poem, even for the lovely prompt above posted by Tess Kincaid  of MagPie Tales and that I would re-post an older poem with (ta-da!)  my first internet audio recording.  Needless to say, the recording has required far more time (and maybe even heat) then expected, and is still very much in the trial and error phase.

But , if you’ve got a moment on this hot day – give it a listen.  (It’s a bit slow at the beginning but speeds up very quickly.)   More importantly, it illustrates  punctuation at work!  (As a tool against line and stanza breaks.)   To listen, just click.

“Swimming in Summer” (Karin Gustafson)

Swimming in Summer

Our palms grew pale as paws in northern climes
as water soaked right through our outer skin.
In summers past, how brightly water shines,

its surface sparked by countless solar mimes,
an aurora only fragmented by limb.
Our palms grew pale as paws in northern climes

as we played hide and seek with sunken dimes,
diving beneath the waves of echoed din;
in summers past, how brightly water shines.

My mother sat at poolside with the Times’
Sunday magazine; I swam by her shin,
my palms as pale as paws in northern climes,

sculpting her ivory leg, the only signs
of life the hair strands barely there, so prim
in summers past.  How brightly water shines

in that lost pool; and all that filled our minds
frozen now, the glimmer petrified within
palms, grown pale as paws in northern climes.
In summers past, how brightly water shines.


The poem, btw, is in my book of poetry,  Going on Somewhere.  Check it out or also  Children’s counting book 1 Mississippi -for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms,  or  Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.

“Cautionary Tale” (Free or Trapped Villanelle?)

May 31, 2012

Cautionary Tale

“It’s hurting me,” she said in half belief
as her hair caught in his passing shirt cuff’s play.
He offered nothing else for her relief
except untangling fingers, smooth smile’s teeth
(his eyes flecked with intelligence and grey).

“It’s hurting me,” she said in half belief
about a life that had grown spare, deplete,
(and cast him as the knight to save the day.)
He offered nothing else if not relief–
opened doors ahead, used credit like a thief.

As he refused her pretended tries to pay,
“it’s hurting me,”  she said in half belief,
(but smiled inside at all that seemed in reach;)
her greater youth would certainly hold sway;
she offered nothing else for his relief.

Game over when he pinned her underneath.
His weight, his age, his wealth, would have their way.
“It’s hurting me,” she said in half belief.
(He offered nothing else for her relief.)


The above is posted for dVerse Poets’ Pub’s “form for all” challenge from Samuel Peralta (a/k/a Semaphore) to write a “free verse poem” in a formal verse form.  Yes, yes, it’s a villanelle.  Yes, mainly what I’ve done is mix up the spacing a bit.  But maybe, perhaps, because it’s a bit of a morality tale, it’s just possible that the repeated lines read a bit more freely and ironically than in a standard villanelle?  Or, are they too caught/entrapped?