2017 Fall Contest Winner: 1st Place, Traditional Form–Villanelle



We’re speaking past each other. Wait.

Let’s stop. Our voices are angry, too intent.

Let silence hold our thoughts, translate


our reasons to compassionate

words, not just slogans, clever, truculent.

We’re speaking past each other. Wait


and listen. Perhaps you’ll hear some accurate

assessment, or a plan. Let righteousness relent

and silence hold our thoughts. Translate


this: America was always Great

but also foolish. And now we’re bent

on speaking past each other. Wait


until you can commiserate

with other viewpoints; hear what others meant.

Let silence hold our hearts, translate


yearning into loving action. It’s not our fate

to build up walls. Let’s circumvent

this speaking past each other. Wait.

Let silence heal. And hearts translate.


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.

“Politics,” which followed traditional patterning for rhyme and repetition, stood out for its use of interruptions within lines (e.g., the opening “We’re speaking past each other. Wait./Stop. . . .”, mirroring the subject), as well as skilled enjambment and use of “feminine” rhymes (consider “truculent” and “circumvent”!). The call for the silence necessary to listen to each other leads to a rising note, counter to the title itself. A serious subject, artfully realized.


Catherine McGuire is a writer and artist with a deep concern for our planet’s future. She has three decades of published poetry, four poetry chapbooks, and a full-length poetry book, Elegy for the 21st Century (FutureCycle Press). A deindustrial science fiction novel, Lifeline, was just released by Founders House Publishing. Find her at www.cathymcguire.com.

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