I am not a poet, but sometimes I like to play with a very structured form, such as a haiku, villanelle, or a rondeau, and see what happens. Structured poetic forms appeal to the mathematical side of me, I suppose, the part that finds freedom and creativity through boundaries. I love to make lists of rhyming words, count up the syllables, and arrange them neatly into the form’s required slots until something comes together.

There are two blogs that I religiously follow. One is Steven David Johnson’s luscious photo-blog, Virginia Journal, at The other is Numero Cinq, a literary blog dreamed up by Douglas Glover, one of the faculty in my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Art. Glover occasionally runs little contests on his site, and I always try to enter something, just for fun. Right now, there are three days left to the Rondeau contest. I dare you to write something and enter it! (If you, like me until last week, don’t know what a rondeau is, run over to his rondeau contest page and find out.)

Here is John McCrae’s famous rondeau:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

And here is mine, not yet famous:

The Way To A Man’s Heart is Through His Stomach, or
Kitchen Ostinato

In the kitchen, eating avocado,
Sits a housewife and a desperado.
He weeps gently while she peels a carrot.
“Things are not what they seem!” squawks her parrot,
then with his beak, pecks an ostinato.

The housewife drinks some amontillado
then scoops a handful of turbinado
to sweeten the tea before they share it
in the kitchen.

The cowboy, trouble aficionado,
tells her that his name is Leonardo.
He’s wasted years on things without merit.
Would he settle down now? Could he dare it?
He gives her a stolen carbinado
in the kitchen.

I’ve chosen to use a feminine rhyme scheme (which means two or more rhyming syllables, ie. carrot /parrot) to reflect the domestic imagery.

I’m obsessed with the kitchen, maybe because I spend half my time there, or perhaps because it’s the pumping, four-chambered organ of the home. Or possibly, it’s just the light. Our kitchen was formerly an enclosed sun porch, long before we moved here, and as such, has two walls composed almost entirely of windows. Whatever the reasons, kitchen imagery has become iconic in my visual art and tends to show up in my writing too.

If you don’t choose to enter your own rondeau in the contest, you can still go to the rondeau page and vote for your favorite entries. Voting will start after all entries are received on November 21st.

And if you have a literary bent, I recommend Numero Cinq as a rich resource for your writing and reading life. If you don’t, just enjoy looking at all the pictures on Virginia Journal!

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2 Responses to Rondeau

  1. Jason M Poole says:

    You inspired me! Here’s mine:

    My Muse is a B*tch, or At Least I Can Still Write a Poem when I Want To

    The string had broken. Days long passed
    Since I had written a song last.
    I tried in vain the chords to find
    That’d go with words to ease my mind
    But insp’ration hath deserts vast.

    When I had thought the die was cast
    The songs, they came, and they came fast
    I thought I’d left dry days behind
    The string had broken.

    Passion’s sweet, but strong is its blast
    I saw not that clouds had amassed
    A storm gives rain but is not kind
    It gets you wet and leaves you blind
    Until you’d realized, aghast,
    The string had broken.

    Thank you- I needed that. 🙂

  2. Jason M Poole says:

    I went ahead and submitted it for the contest. For fun! You should read that version instead of the one I posted here because I made a couple minor changes to it…

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