His Pen

a villanelle written upon watching
the movie Eternal Spring

His pen flies back and forth, a righteous flurry
That recreates the scenes of saintlike deeds,
Giving shape to all that once was blurry.

In youth, the ancient heroes’ wartime glory
Inspired his hand—with legendary speeds
His pen flies back and forth, a righteous flurry.

Then later he found peace within life’s hurry
And time to cultivate his garden’s seeds,
Giving shape to all that once was blurry.

This brought down commie fists of iron fury
That pulled out faithful folks like spreading weeds.
His pen flies back and forth, a righteous flurry

Across the world, continuing his story
Of drawing for us what a tyrant breeds,
Giving shape to all that once was blurry.

We sit and watch the images as jury.
The Judge awaits as civilization bleeds.
His pen flies back and forth, a righteous flurry
Giving shape to all that once was blurry.





Evan Mantyk teaches literature and history in New York and is Editor of the Society of Classical Poets.

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15 Responses

  1. Paul Buchheit

    Very nice villanelle, Evan. A fitting message not just for China, but for all the countries in the world that are becoming increasingly intolerant of long-held beliefs and rights.

  2. Dan Ward

    Thanks for calling attention to this movie. Hopefully it will be available to stream over the internet some day.

  3. Anna J. Arredondo


    I was particularly struck by these two lines:

    “We sit and watch the images as jury.
    The Judge awaits as civilization bleeds.”

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    I agree with Anna, in that I also thought the two lines she mentioned were the most powerful in the poem — though the whole villanelle is really well done, with the perfect rhyming words, and inspiring musicality throughout.

  5. jd

    Enjoyed your Villanelle, Evan, and the introduction to “Eternal Spring”. As it’s animated, I might be able to watch it.

  6. Margaret Coats

    Good poem to present the film, Evan. I found a theater within half an hour’s drive, but it looks like showings are this week only. I’ll have to hurry! The third stanza of the villanelle is the most attractive from my point of view, but maybe I can deal with some drama.

  7. Paul Freeman

    Powerful stuff highlighting that tyranny is all about controlling the narrative and that even an individual can make their mark.

    The trailer’s inspiring.

    Thanks for the read, Evan.

  8. James Sale

    I haven’t seen this film Evan, but well done on this achievement. As you might imagine, given my own tendencies, I especially like the rhymes you have developed here: the final – and surprise – variant, ‘jury’, is brilliant and unexpected. Like this a lot.

  9. Evan Mantyk

    Thank you all for your comments! I should note that Eternal Spring was selected as Canada’s submission to the 2023 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film. It is in many AMC theaters now throughout the United States, and is at the Film Forum in Manhattan. It’s also playing in Canada, the UK, and Australia (I’m sure it will be available for streaming later on, just like all movies). For the U.S. showings, it is a limited run, just this week, though I have heard it could be extended. Check the listings on https://eternalspringfilm.com/ I drove an hour to see it, and it was well worth it. The movie uses real footage from the Chinese Communist Party-controlled media in which the host trumpets atheism and socialism as part of its monstrous propaganda meant to destroy the innocent lives of those who do not conform to the Party’s will. This is a movie worth supporting!

  10. Brian Yapko

    A wonderful villanelle, Evan, on a most important subject. I too love the jury and judge lines and the unbearably potent phrase “as civilization bleeds.” But I also especially like the phrasing of “Of drawing for us what a tyrant breeds” for isn’t that exactly what we are all meant to do — to bear witness? I will make a point of seeing this film.

  11. Janice Canerdy

    Reading this skillfully written, expressive villanelle makes me want to see this movie! Exceptional

  12. Lucia Haase

    Really enjoyed your villanelle poem and the video also. Thanks
    for the information on the Eternal Spring film. Your poem is
    very inspiring. I’ve always liked Villanelle’s. Thank you.

  13. Sally Cook

    Dear Evan —

    You have a way of being subtle no matter what form you use — the mark of a fine poet and teacher. Thank you for informing us of the movie; I will watch for it !

  14. Joshua C. Frank

    Evan, I love this one. It’s a perfect villanelle for this writer and other writers all over the world like him.


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