.

Who’s the Villain Now?

My poems drip with vitriol and gall,
Each stanza driving home a heartfelt curse—
A side-effect of drinking alcohol

Incessantly.  I lack the wherewithal
To temper my intemperate temper; worse,
My poems drip with vitriol and gall

Since I’ve become an angry man in thrall
To stiffer drinks and grudges I still nurse.
A side-effect of drinking alcohol,

Besides attunement to the Muse’s call,
Is certain transportation on a hearse.
My poems drip with vitriol and gall,

But that’s to be expected.  After all,
What poet would be pleased to deem his verse
A side-effect of drinking alcohol?

God knows, I should be quaffing Geritol
And pinching pennies from my dwindling purse.
My poems drip with vitriol and gall,
A side-effect of drinking alcohol.

                                                        First published in Lucid Rhythms (2009)

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In the Post-Antidepressant Era

I choose to live because I like the pain
of knowing I’ve endured another loss,
a  state of mind not easy to explain

to  people who believe there’s much to gain
from life.  It’s not as though I bear a cross:
I choose to live because I like the pain

that comes from watching dreams go down the drain,
a most effective nostrum for a cos-
tive state of mind.  Not easy to explain

to those who think I’m more or less insane
are reasons why I never try to gloss
my choice to live.  Because I like the pain,

I’m partial to the days of endless rain
when rolling stones are first to gather moss,
a state of mind not easy to explain.

As though to highlight portions of my brain
resembling over-processed applesauce,
I choose to live because I like the pain,
a state of mind not easy to explain.

                                                   First published in Verse Wisconsin (2010)

.

.

Bender

When things get ugly, someone has to pay
A price to keep the world from caving in.
It’s just another ordinary day,

And if your lucky barstool starts to sway,
You need to add some olives to the gin.
When things get ugly, someone has to pay

For all the drinks.  You would’ve anyway,
Despite the pleading from your next of kin—
It’s just.  Another ordinary day

Goes by, and once again desires betray
Intentions: Nothing can compete with sin
When things get ugly.  Someone has to pay

The piper; you believe you can delay
Forever, charming loan sharks with a grin.
It’s just another ordinary day,

And everything, you’re sure, is A-O.K.
Where others quit, you’re ready to begin,
And things get ugly.  Someone has to pay.
It’s just another ordinary day.

                                                          First published in Tilt-a-Whirl (2010)

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C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden.  Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Australia and India.  His collection, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder was published in 2013 by White Violet Press.


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24 Responses

  1. Mike Bryant

    Three accomplished villanelles… but the first is my favorite. If you had addressed it to ‘Nell’ the title could have been… well, never mind.
    This comment must be a side-effect.

    Reply
  2. Brian Yapko

    C.B., these poems are extraordinary for the almost-shocking emotional complexity they depict. The bemused self-awareness of Who’s the Villain Now? is especially fine: the villanelle form gives the impression of a speaker caught in something of a hungover loop, capable of brilliant bursts of language (“temper my intemperate temper” or the wry “certain transportation on a hearse”) but with a real undertone of pathos. It’s just so good.

    “Bender” is a great character study in a cash-strapped alcoholic approaching a bottom. The pleading from the next of kin is painful and the abrupt and unexpected cut-off of ‘it’s just.” in line 9 is incredible: the poetic subject is in a loop that never ends and sometimes the details change – like the syntax – but a loop it remains nonetheless.

    Of the three my favorite is “In the Post Antidepressant Era.” There’s some harsh but observant psychological truth that you depict that I really admire. The overall tone is so sad and yet there’s something heroic about the speaker who chooses to live with the pain. No it’s not a state of mind easy to explain but – despite some of the depressive imagery (dreams down the drain is pretty bleak) – this speaker’s willingness to endure much (very much a cross despite his denial) strikes me as unexpectedly noble.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      The, villanelle, in my opinion, Brian, is (at least potentially) a very dynamic fixed form. Employing copious enjambments keeps the poem driving forward through the cyclical repetends. End-stopping tends to bring a villanelle to a standstill. And lest the repetends seem like they are in place just to satisfy the demands of the form, it’s a good idea to vary the punctuation or word-forms, creating new syntactic and semantic structures out of roughly the same words. It’s enlightening to read your accounts of what is going on in these poems, because constructing these chains of related meaning is beyond my conscious control. I had no plan; I just let the poem play itself out.

      Reply
  3. Michael Dashiell

    These contemporary style formal forms, intelligent and using mostly original description and language, might fit with Poetry Magazine in Chicago. It’s a leading poetry magazine. I suggested to publish a formal poetry issue and that formal poets aren’t necessarily old fashioned. I hope this happens. Check out this magazine if you wish if you haven’t already.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I subscribed to Poetry for a number of years. And when Christian Wiman was editor-in-chief, there was always the possibility of formal poetry, though mostly by just a few authors: e.g. A.E. Stallings, Dana Gioia, Don Paterson and Timothy Murphy. Since Wiman moved on, there’s nary a formal poem to be found there. Just ask Jared Carter how different things are there now than they were at one time.

      Reply
  4. James A. Tweedie

    Let me add my kudos to these well-crafted and articulate villanelles (most fit the form but don’t read anywhere near as well as these do).

    I particularly like the punctuated variations of the refrains in “In the Post-Antidepressant Era” and “Bender.” So typical of C.B.’s penchant for enjambment.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      As I mentioned to Brian above in my response to his comment, I think that enjambment and structural variations are necessary to maintain the natural rollicking pace to which a villanelle lends itself. Thank you for noticing these inner workings of the form, James.

      Reply
  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    Albert Jay Nock once asked this question: “How do you know that you are living in a dark age?”

    I can answer it. When a writer of the skill and imagination of Kip Anderson remains basically unknown and unacknowledged as one of our major poets, while talentless nonentities like Rupi Kaur and the semiliterate inauguration versifiers become rich celebrities, you can be sure that you are living in a dark age.

    The villanelle (a medieval French form) is one of the most difficult things to pull off in English. I’ve read dozens of truly godawful ones. Producing three perfect ones like these is a major accomplishment.

    In “Bender,” the syntactical variation in the third and fourth tercets is expertly done. And I’ll even forgive the syllable-splitting of /cos-/ and /tive/, because it is so adroitly managed that it hardly troubles the reader at all!

    Top-notch work, as usual.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Thank you, Joseph. Some of my villanelles you published in Trinacria are probably a bit too naughty for these pages. “The Sexton at Mary Magdalene’s” from Trinacria No. 9 is a good example.

      Reply
  6. D.G. Rowe

    Hallo, Mr Anderson, how d’you do.

    I’ve come to like reading your poetry, and the style you exude, both technical and the character/personality of the voice. The best I can sum up, in-so-far as the attitude and character of the voice, and forgive me if it it doesn’t resonate with you, but is none-the-less genuinely felt by myself is of the lovable rogue, perhaps an air of, how shall I say, cynical trenchant bleakness, there’s a needle behind the humour (if I’ve explained that correctly, ) in the ones I really enjoy form you. I remeber reading one of your pieces about mowing the lawn, or such subject, It was good stuff.

    Mr Anderson. I have a genuine question regarding your astheatic style and choices pertaining thereof, if you’d be so kind as to indulge me.
    I have come to notice, and has been noticed in the Three poem above that you alternate from producing some poems with each new line beginning with an Upper Case, and other poems not with an Upper Case.

    Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but am curious none-the-less. I ask this because I wonder if you take great measure of astheatic thought it doing this dependent on your artistic mood, or depending on the subject of the narrative, or if you prefer one way over the other.
    In my learning of the Art the last several years, and exploring the poetry and poets I want to read, whether long dead or contempary and still living, I’ve always thought that starting your new lines with an Upper Case to delineate a new line of verse was proper. I remember reading a quality essay written by Mr Salemi that partly alluded to this trait in modern poetry, as opposed to it being non existent in pre 20th century poetry. I’ve come to associate it with the vast array of non-poetry, and un-verse we are now subjected to in our age.
    Then In my discovery of new poets I come across your-self, Mr Anderson, and I have come to greatly admire your work, and you employ this trait of not using Upper Case to start a new line of verse.

    Blimey, I am waffling on and meandering, but I am genuinely curious to ask you about your astheatic formal choices, Mr Anderson, if at all I’ve made my self clear.

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I would be happy to explain what informs my choice in regard to initial capitalization, D.G. It is certainly “proper” to begin every line with a capital letter, but it is not required. And when I employ the dubious practice of splitting a word at the end of a line, I think it looks better to write “cos-/tive” than to write “cos-/Tive.” That’s all. Though L.E. Sissman was quite comfortable with splitting even adverbs, ending up with strange formations in the manner of “quick-/Ly.” Nowadays I almost always use initial caps and only very rarely split words at the end of a line. Anything for a rhyme, right?

      Reply
  7. David Watt

    C.B., all three villanelles possess your trademark use of enjambment, and also your ability to get to the heart of the matter. My favorite of the three is your character filled villainous villanelle.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Villanelles are a lot of fun, David, provided one does not run out of rhyming words. Six or seven are required to match up with each repetend. Who says that English is a rhyme-poor language?

      Reply
  8. Peter Hartley

    As one who has been totally teetotalitarian virtually since babyhood I didn’t need to take on board the ills of addiction to drink but the second poem struck uncomfortably close to home for me and my own mindset. All three technically very capable and a delight to read, though I don’t know where exactly they rate on a world scale. I am, however, pleased to be able to say that I have heard of C B Anderson but I have never heard of Rupi Kaur.

    Reply
  9. C.B. Anderson

    As to how they rate on a world scale, Peter, the only person I know of who ever dared to rate villanelles on an ordered scale passed away a couple of years ago. I’ve never heard of Rupi Kaur either, but I don’t care a rupee’s worth about that, and I probably drink a lot more than this person.

    Reply
  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    C.B., this trio of treats is a masterclass in one of my favorite forms. I love the rhyme, the slick use of enjambment, and the wicked wit… but, I most appreciate that raw honesty that ripples just beneath the surface. These multi-layered poems are an inspirational triumph.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I think, Susan, that you sometimes overestimate me. but this is always salve for wounds suffered in the past.

      Reply
  11. Adam Sedia

    There are few poems more satisfying than a well-crafted villanelle, and here we have three. They all masterfully demonstrate how the form allows for many subtle turns of thought leading to a convergence in the final refrain. I particularly enjoy the variation of each refrain to adapt it to a new context.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      I never read until tonight your comment on my villanelles, and that is why I have not replied until now. (I am currently going through an entire year’s worth of poems posted at SCP.) I think that it’s no small matter that villanelles should have subtle (if possible) variations of punctuation and syntax in order to instate them as the reigning queen of Poetry.

      Reply

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