Posted November 10, 2017.

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 2nd Place, Traditional Form–Villanelle

Storm Clouds

 

It’s only bluster, clap and clang,

The hoist of flags above mankind

And all the flags are rags in rain.

 

A soldier’s wife recalls the pain

Attends his grave her heart resigned

It’s only bluster, clap and clang.

 

With all his friends he marched and sang

Convinced they fought for humankind

And all the flags are rags in rain.

 

She kneels and thinks that it’s profane

What God and country have enshrined

It’s only bluster, clap and clang.

 

He braved the storm and felt no blame

For horror, honor intertwined

And all the flags are rags in rain.

 

And she will never be the same

Her son will never be so blind

It’s only bluster, clap and clang

And all the flags are rags in rain.

 

Judge’s comments

To prepare, I read villanelles by Bishop, Dunn, Kees, and Levertov. Then I looked in the 34 poems in this category for the traditional (19 lines, consistent syllable count, rhyme scheme) elements, plus intriguing choice of subject, image, diction, enjambment, and other characteristics of outstanding poems. A challenge; a pleasure.

“Storm Clouds” meditates on the consequences of war. The two repeated lines are highly effective: the hard sounds of “bluster, clap and clang” contrast with the soft mourning sounds in “And all the flags are rags in rain.” This 8-syllable-per-line lament uses feminine rhymes, much echoing soundwork, and a traditional subject of loss.

 

Originally from New Orleans, John McPherson has lived in Portland for the past forty years. His interests include poetry of course, woodworking, origami, and genealogy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *