Formal verse

13 May 2010 § 2 Comments

Mairmusic shares my love of formal verse forms, which she describes as ‘balm to my soul’. There is something incredibly soothing about working within strict parameters; far from feeling restricted, I find it liberating, stimulating and intensely satisfying. The challenge is to create a ‘real’ poem, not just a piece of clever wordplay or something that simply ticks the boxes technically.

The villanelle is an old French verse form; perhaps the best-known example of (fairly) recent times is Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night’. I can’t pretend that this early attempt of mine has one scintilla of Dylan’s depth or power, but it was fun to write. For my non-UK readers, Wight, Portland and Plymouth are sea areas used in the Shipping Forecast, which is broadcast four times daily by the BBC. And although she sounds like a small village or paint colour, Charlotte Green is actually one of the BBC Radio 4 newsreaders and announcers, whose mellifluous voices are so reassuring to mariners plying the unpredictable seas around Britain – and anxious landlubbers camping on the coast. This villanelle was, as the movie people like to say, ‘inspired by real events’ on the north-west coast of Brittany, which is covered by sea area Plymouth.


As we sit in the tent and wait

It comes clear on the radio,

“Wight, Portland, Plymouth: gale Force Eight.”

We feel the restless ocean’s weight

Surge hard against the dunes below

As we sit in the tent and wait.

Charlotte Green hands down our fate

From her warm London studio,

“Wight, Portland, Plymouth: gale Force Eight.”

The day dies in a sky like slate

Far out to sea, the breakers grow

As we sit in the tent and wait.

The canvas strains as we debate;

Should we sit tight, or pack and go?

“Wight, Portland, Plymouth: gale Force Eight.”

The first drops hit. We are too late;

Will our pegs hold? Well, soon we’ll know.

As we sit in the tent and wait,

“Wight, Portland, Plymouth: gale Force Eight.”


Tagged: ,

§ 2 Responses to Formal verse

  • trisha says:

    this is simply gorgeous way of writing a poem. enjoyed it thoroughly.

    • gonecycling says:

      I guess sometimes the old ways really are the best! I think these repeating forms are perfect for poems about the sea; they have the same hypnotic quality as the waves on the shore. Thank you so much for your comment; please come and visit again soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Formal verse at Gonecycling.


%d bloggers like this: