NaPoWriMo Quarantine Edition – Exercise 26

from One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master […]

– Elizabeth Bishop

Today’s task is to write a villanelle of your own about losing things.

The villanelle is a fairly simple form, structure-wise. Nineteen lines, and only two rhymes. Five tercets and a concluding quatrain, with interlocking rhymes. Not only that, but the first and third lines from your first stanza get repeated, alternately supplying the final line of each subsequent stanza, before coming back together to end the poem as the last two lines of the quatrain. The pattern looks like this:

A¹ b A²
a b A¹
a b A²
a b A¹
a b A²
a b A¹ A²

with the lowercase letters giving you the rhyme sounds, and the capitals being the repeated whole lines.

And what sort of things should you write about? Whatever sorts of things you lose –big things or little things or a mixture, up to you. It’ll take a bit of tinkering to get it to work, but the villanelle is a form that can be incredibly powerful (see Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle, for example) or very fun (Wendy Cope’s Reading Scheme). So relax, and see where things take you.

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