a villanelle

We came together with an open mind
No crass intolerance or blinkered view
Is it too much to ask us to be kind?

The streets in which we children played were lined
With generosity, and we all knew
We came together with an open mind

The teenage dreams we shared were not aligned
To any creed or gangland mob tattoos
Is it too much to ask us to be kind?

The days, the nights, the well-remembered times
As friends, we did a common cause pursue
We came together with an open mind

But later on, we found ourselves inclined
To persecute the other’s point-of-view
Is it too much to ask us to be kind?

What brought about the changes we now find?
The rage, the hate, the bitter attitude
We came together with an open mind
Is it too much to ask us to be kind?



James Allan Kennedy comes from Manchester in England. He’s been writing for a long time, mainly academic material, but also nonfiction and poetry. His collection of poems Silken Thread written in collaboration with Mexican poet Ana Salazar and Israeli writer Barbara Kessel, was made available in 2019 and this year his collection Horologic, written in collaboration with British poet Richard Ludlow, will be available from September. These days, Allan splits his time between England and Mexico – teaching, writing and painting, among other things.

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17 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    It is too much to ask, let alone to ask to be kind.

    We have long since reached the point that, if you don’t march in lockstep with me, you are against me, and I will destroy you.

    • James Allan Kennedy

      Thankfully, I’m not bitter and twisted. I still have hope in humanity, in the fundamental kindness of people.

      • Mike Bryant

        I have faith in humanity as well. I also know that the world is within a hair’s breadth of falling into a nightmare of global authoritarianism. Those who are pushing us toward that precipice need to know we won’t go quietly. They consist of a major political party (Guess who?), puppet masters (Soros, Clinton, and their ilk), influencers (MSM, Hollywood, big tech, educators, etc.), militants and agitators (BLM, ANTIFA, SPLC, etc.) and misinformed voters.
        Only the last group has any chance of redemption, but the other groups need to be eliminated first.
        We are in a decades long war and refuse to accept it. It’s only a matter of time before it jumps to a hot war.

      • Joe Tessitore

        As do I, but hoping that we can all get along suggests a profound denial of reality.

        You do jump to pretty ugly conclusions about people you’ve never met.
        Bitter and twisted is remarkably harsh, coming from one who rhetorically asks us to be kind.

      • Joe Tessitore

        If you think about it, all I really did was answer your question, very much in line with what your poem bemoans the loss of.
        It didn’t take too much to unearth the real you, did it?
        A pretty thin veneer of “goodness” and very easily penetrated, wouldn’t you say?

  2. Yael

    What a lovely breath of fresh air to find in my inbox on a rainy morning.
    That’s a beautiful poem, thanks for sharing.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    I have noticed that Englishmen in general tend to be phlegmatic, and not naturally inclined to combativeness or intense argumentation. They prefer friendly banter at the local pub. But let’s face facts: the time for nostalgic pleas that ask “Why can’t we all just get along?” is now over and done with.

  4. James Allan Kennedy

    You may have noticed, but that doesn’t make you right. In fact, in this case it makes you very wrong, makes you look judgemental, ill-informed, almost intolerant, which I’m sure you’re not. Is that sufficiently argumentative enough for you? This poem is not about ‘why can’t we all just get along’. Why don’t you read it again, and maybe even again? In other words, why not try reading it with an open mind instead of what seems like a blinkered view.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Are you saying that your villanelle is intentionally ironical, in the voice of someone with whom you disagree? That is the only way it can be read without coming to the otherwise obvious conclusion that the speaker is asking “Why can’t we all just get along?”

      The simple structure of the poem suggests this. Apart from one of your repetends, you use the past tense. This certainly indicates that the speaker considers tolerance and politeness and generosity to be things of the past. But the repetend “Is it too much to ask us to be kind?” is in the present tense, which makes it a plea for the restoration of that previous situation.

      If you have a more complicated and abstruse analysis of the poem, let’s hear it.

  5. David Paul Behrens

    The answer to your question is no. It is not too much to ask us to be kind. In fact, it is the least we should do. However, I am not really sure if I see any hope for humanity. Consider what they did to Jesus, and he was supposedly very kind.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    Really?! As Dr. Salemi points out, this is not the time to be kind, but the time to answer assaults in kind. Being nice only works when one is dealing with nice people, and today we are dealing with the worst of the worst. If you think otherwise, then you haven’t really been paying attention to what’s going on.

  7. Dave Whippman

    I’m a Brit like James, and I had to smile when I read Joseph’s comment that “Englishmen in general tend to be … not naturally inclined to combativeness or intense argumentation.” In the past few years, politics has changed in this country. There is a lot of real hate in political argument now. This was a well-written villanelle by the way.

  8. Onah Ejiofor

    It is disappointing how little was said about the artistic quality of the poem rather than its politics. It seems to be increasingly the bane of much of the poems appearing here. They tend to be more about politics rather than poetry. Republicanism is taking the shine from the craft of verse. William Shakespeare, or indeed any of the classical greats, would be ashamed at what often passes here as poetry.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Why don’t you take a look at my posted comment of August 20, where I discussed the structure of Kennedy’s poem, his use of tenses, and how they led to a clear interpretation of his intended message?

      It seems pretty clear to me that your only real objection is not to politics per se, but to the fact that much of the politics here isn’t yours.


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