Your Next Move Could Be Poetic Justice

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Earlier this year I took a 6-week creative writing workshop. One of the more challenging assignments was to write not just a poem, but a specific type of poem. Here’s the prompt:

Write a sonnet, a villanelle, or a pantoum. Think about your word choices as you proceed. Follow the guidelines. Share with fellow students by Saturday evening. You may also be asked to read in class. Read Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and MLK’S “I have a Dream” speech for word order, cadence, and placement.

First, I researched. I had heard of sonnets before, but a villanelle? A pantoum? My goal was to find whichever option would be easier. And quicker.

After the Google search, I chose villanelle. There are very specific guidelines to follow when writing a villanelle. Oh! I like writing, but, as if it weren’t hard enough to write a poem already, I now had to write one with strict rules that were completely foreign to me.

About an hour in, I realized that the rules actually were helpful! They were a container that provided structure on which to express my thoughts. Kind of like bumpers at the bowling alley.

This experience was noteworthy: the imposed structure enhanced creative thinking and even efficiency. Poems aside — consider how hard and soft deadlines, reviews/second opinions, and other accountability tools can make such a difference!

Herein lies secrets to working more efficiently and getting a higher quality outcome.

  • Develop a structure to attain your goals.
  • Refine processes and habits to support the outcome you want.
  • Remember, the right goals make it a lot easier to find the inspiration, motivation, and fortitude to take inspired action.

Back to the poem. Let’s be clear, I know that if a poem weren’t assigned, I would not have written one.

And on the off chance that it crossed my mind to write a poem, it certainly wouldn’t have been a villanelle.

Several months after the course, the instructor’s newsletter alerted readers to a sonnet contest.

Long story short? I’m now the winner of the Connecticut Shakespeare Festival Sonnet Contest in the Contemporary category.

I was a poet and I didn’t even know it!

Son’s Song – Pandemic

I breathe, unaware of my lungs,
Except for daily meditation bout,
Like skin, spine and spleen, the work’s unsung

In March my son to the hospital sprung
Fever, shakes, delirium, replaced joy, a drought;
I breathe, unaware of my lungs.

A cherry blossom spring, DC has sprung
A strong young man, rehearsing his end;
Like skin, spine and spleen, the work’s unsung

An 8 hour drive for a family so stung;
Ventilator sings so he may mend.
I breathe, unaware of my lungs

An awakening, the ladders’ first rung
Called Easter morn, “Hi, Mom!”
Like skin, spine and spleen, the work’s unsung

Rush, Crash, Surprise, the bow is strung
Symphony so sweet, the boy has won
I breathe, unaware of my lungs
Like skin, spine and spleen, the work’s unsung

-Marilee Driscoll
(Feb. 2021)

This blog is originally published in Marilee's newsletter.
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Marilee Driscoll

Writer/published author/awarded poet. Meditator. Gardener. Badminton, running. Consultant/coach/biz owner/keynote speaker by trade.