Backstage: The Deep

Behind “The Deep”

Backstage: The Deep
A writer’s desk (Photo credit: Michael CoghlanCC BY-SA 2.0)

The Deep is my first attempt at writing a villanelle, which is a form of poetry consisting of five tercets (three-line stanzas), followed by a final quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated in alternation as the third line of the successive stanzas, and are then used together as the final couplet of the quatrain.

The best-known examples of this form in English are probably Do not go gentle into that good night, by Dylan Thomas; One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop; and The Waking, by Theodore Roethke. While I like all three poems, I am especially partial to Roethke’s and Bishop’s. Their works, unlike Thomas’s, use slightly modified versions of the lines from the first stanza when they are repeated in subsequent stanzas; Bishop takes more liberties with this than Roethke does. That said, it also takes skill to repeat the lines exactly, as Thomas does.

(As to what may have inspired the content of The Deep, I leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

Further Reading

Theodore Roethke, The Waking
Elizabeth Bishop, One Art
Dylan Thomas, Do not go gentle into that good night

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