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Poetry Vol. CLXXIX No. 5 copyright February 2002, and in The Poetry Anthology 1912-2002, Joseph Parisi, editor, Ivan R. Dee, publisher, 2002

 

 

HOW TO WRITE A VILLANELLE

If you would write a villanelle
Choose two of your most brilliant lines,
Ones you should have jettisoned.

Repeat them till you're bored
And so's your reader if he's stuck
This far through your villanelle.

Do likewise if you find a perfect rhyme.
Have no illusions that you are the first:
Whoever was, he should have jettisoned

All his favorite rhymes and lines.
So should you. Try fancy foreign forms
If you would write a villanelle.

As with new lovers: you repeat a line
Till you are bored and so is he or she,
That line you should have jettisoned,

For soon you may suspect that he's or she's
A villain/villainess who does not care
If you would write a villanelle.
This one you should have jettisoned.

Comstock Review, Spring 2007, vol. 21, number 01; Real Toads, Black Buzzard Press, copyright 2008 Elisavietta Ritchie




Dissecting an Orange
Even More Advice for a Young Poet

Consider orange peels tonight.
Focus on your six imperfect trapezoids,
two wheels of cut-off ends. The under skin of lacey white
is edible, pick off the strings. Avoid

the heart, a tasteless pith like twist of paper towel.
Inside the tiny ovoid cylinders,
flesh quivers, waits. Don't muse aloud
on Orange as Obvious Metaphor.

Check out the color, scent, the feel and taste
of juice that coats your hands, your smile,
your Sunday shirt. Oranges kill a cold with haste
and keep you from starvation for a while.

Play with details. Do more than just describe.
Cut excess words—but keep essential adjectives this time.
What philosophic value to the exercise? Divine. (A modifier or imperative?) Ditch rhyme.

Next, eat the orange. What's left? Fling
detritus in the compost bin atop the weeds
for possum and raccoon. Come spring,
the mulch will fertilize five sprouting ivory seeds.

Now wash.

 

Confrontation 2006; Real Toads, Black Buzzard Press Chapbook Series, copyright 2008 Elisavietta Ritchie




Additional Advice for a Young Poet

"A writer has nothing to teach and everything to learn, at all times." Albert Camus

1.
Only one paper napkin
for those six empty minutes?
Cover it with a poem.

Wipe your face
on the other side.
Between the splotches: write.

2.
Lose your pen?
Try a pencil. When this
breaks, wears out,

charcoal till you're black
as the burnt stick
worn to smudge.

Write with ash
on the sea.
Write on grass,

red ink on flames,
blue on the sky,
white on snow.

When all implements
disappear,
use your blood.

 

 

originally published in The American Scholar copyright 1991 by the Phi Beta Kappa Society; reprinted in A Wound-Up Cat and Other Bedtime Stories; The Arc of the Storm, Signal Books, copyright 1998 Elisavietta Ritchie; and Real Toads, Black Buzzard Press, copyright 2008 Elisavietta Ritchie



Bedtime Stories

Begin with simple themes:
A milkmaid on her way to the stream
stumbles on a gold brooch. A princess
stabs her finger on a quill.

In the presence of his ministers
a king scratches mosquito bites,
a horse breaks from his stall,
charges over enemy terrain.

From then on, kingdoms crash,
winds howl down castle chimneys,
vipers emerge from the bath house,
there's a drop in agricultural statistics.

Or a tadpole swallows the brooch
without further metamorphosis,
the princess completes
her Ph.D. in herpetology,

the king goes fishing, the caught pike
plea bargains but ends up
in the bouillabaisse anyway,
and the king chokes on the brooch.

Suppose the milkmaid reaches the stream
for an assignation with the king,
but trips on the corpse of a cow, flees
and drops their baby into the marsh.

where the gardener discovers and raises him
knowing when to prune a forsythia,
and the lad landscapes the palace, unaware
of royal genes but sensitive to mosquitoes.

However it starts, how to control it,
and why, or why not. Sunday mornings
in bed are especially fertile.
There's no telling what next.

Elisavietta Ritchie
P.O. Box 298, Broomes Island, MD 20615
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