Let’s go swimming: Poem and thoughts about breathing

I’m thinking of changing the title of this blog. I named it “Breathe” way back. Years ago. When it felt like I didn’t have time to breathe. It was supposed to remind me and maybe others to take a moment. A moment to breathe is a precious thing.

Breathing took on a different meaning for me later on. Sometimes breathing isn’t easy. Sometimes this necessary thing hurts.

But maybe you still need the reminder.

I’m still on the villanelle ride. It’s not easy, either. I’m writing and rewriting and rhyming and re-rhyming (that’s a thing!). I’m up to eleven now. I thought I’d share one with you. Not the one with profanity, which is repeated multiple times because this is a villanelle lol.

This is one of my favorites, though.

Villanelle #6

I’m going swimming in a blue lake;

I want to do it once before I die.

Come with me when you wake.

This note will replace what I take.

I hope you’ll understand why

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

I know you’re here for my sake;

our souls are bound by that tie,

so come with me when you wake.

There’s nothing between us that’s fake,

and there’s nothing sad about goodbye.

I’m just going swimming in a blue lake.

I can’t seem to heal this ache…

it just won’t seem to comply.

Come with me when you awake.

Don’t worry, your love I won’t forsake

though I know you hear me sigh.

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

Come with me when you wake.

Summer Rose. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Taking you along on the Villanelle ride: Poem

So I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the villanelle form, but I have written three so far. Villanelles 2 and 3 are nowhere near ready for others to see, but number 1 is not too bad, and, thanks to some feedback from a writer friend (thanks, Brandon!), much better than it was.

I’m going to publish it here even though I started out the day with major imposter syndrome after reading Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song“. You should definitely read it if you haven’t. It’s what I will strive for in my villanelles. I’m not there. Not anywhere near it. But what is life if you’re not trying to perfect something?

Villanelle #1

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Follow the direction of your heart.

It’s the best way to spend your time—

and the only real way to make a start.

There is no other way to map or chart

the treacherous mountains you must climb.

Just follow the direction of your heart.

Life may want to rip you apart,

but the map of the heart is sublime

and the only real way to make a start.

Reach for reason and long for art!

It will never be considered a crime

to follow the direction of your heart.

There’s no confusion when you depart.

Even if you can’t find the right rhyme,

you know it’s the way to make your start

The sting of winter may yet smart

even when you’re in your prime.

But follow the direction of your heart!

It’s the only real way to make a start.

Crepe myrtle. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Challenge Accepted: Learning something new

I’ve been a bit directionless recently. No idea what to do with my creative energy, so I’ve been shoving it down and watching Netflix instead (I’m rewatching Longmire, and it’s better than I remember from the first time around). (Side note: I need a Lou Diamond Phillips in my life.)

Back to learning something new. I decided I needed a direction, so I posted on social media and Twitter (Twitter is not social media, imo), asking for suggestions for my next poetry challenge. I didn’t promise to write, illustrate and publish another poetry book in less than a month, but I did indicate I might try.

Well, the challenge I got and accepted after some thought was a bit more complex than I’d anticipated. I don’t think I’ll manage another book in 30 days. It’s a whole new form to me and I’m loving it, hating it, cursing it—and learning it.

A villanelle is a sort of song poem with a rigid rhyme scheme that utilizes repeating lines, unlike most poetry. The best known one is Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night.” I have always loved that poem. I love the rhythm of it. I love the passion in it. I love the way you can almost unconsciously sing it without even meaning to.

The one thing I never loved because I never even noticed it was the rhyme.

How is that possible?? In multiple places “night” literally rhymes with “night”, “light” with “light”. How the heck did Thomas make his rhyme so invisible? It’s awesome that he did, because a poem with too heavy a rhyme will be singsongy and irritating. It may sound contrived. How did Thomas manage a poem with such a rigid rhyme scheme and make it sound natural?

The answer, of course, is that so much of the rest of the poem is more important than the rhyme. The passion, the theme, the message, the rhythm. All the things I’ve noticed that I love.

So that’s my new challenge. Write villanelles that don’t sound like they have a rhyme scheme. Or at least write villanelles where the rigid rhyme scheme doesn’t interfere with the message and passion of the poem.

Random picture of a perfect mushroom. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye