Today kicks off National Poetry Month, which proves how nerdy I am, because I get excited about it.
Last Friday, my mentee and I read joint villanelles at CHAPTERS, the Girls Write Now reading series (which, btw, I will be emceeing on April 23 with keynote speaker Lizzie Skurnick and NYC’s best teen writers!). When I was paired up with Shira three years ago (!), I knew we’d get along swimmingly both writing-wise and life-wise, only because we immediately realized how much we love to write poetry. That first year, we did a joint cinquain project–I would write one and send it to her, and she’d write one using my last line as her first line, and so on.
Last year we upped the ante, choosing six words and each writing a sestina with them. That was a challenge–sestinas are long and highly structured–but I think our pieces turned out beautifully.
And finally, this year, our final year as an official pair (she’s off to Wesleyan in the fall–sob!), we chose villanelles. (For an example of an amazing villanelle, check out Sylvia Plath’s Mad Girl’s Love Song and some other famous ones here.) We settled on an opening line, and each branched off into our own work.
Here’s how mine turned out:
My city speaks to me in
fits and starts; a still life that’s always breathing.
She seeps into my skin like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.
Characters emerge on every corner, hushing me
when I try to decipher the mother tongue, the fragrant voices
in which my city speaks, to me and only me.
They’re a riddle, these murmurs: how did we all get here,
and who will make it out alive? I hang my head, listen, and
New York seeps into me, like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.
Somewhere tonight there is a rooftop party, and it hums
its songs overhead, spinning into stars, through slate and stone.
I listen for clues to the mysteries of this verbal city.
Somewhere tonight there is a subway stalled,
people pressing ears to chipped cement walls, calling out.
She’s calling, too; seeping in like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.
The languages mingle, blending into colors we haven’t yet named.
We dance our dances, knock on buildings, kick up leaves, whistle at buses.
My city speaks to me, to us; oil on canvas, dripping on hands.
New York, she seeps into me like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.