The villanelle is a complex and demanding form. As we said in our Challenge prompt, we’re so glad that our creators — another shout out to Mike Singleton - Mikeydred, Lauren Elizabeth, Sonia Heidi Unruh, Dane BH, and J.M. Powell — suggested that we run this one (please do put your own thoughts into the comments on Share Your Ideas to Shape the Future of Vocal Challenges!)
Congratulations to Harbor Benassa, our winner, for Who I Used To Be — and this is their first win, too, so that’s extra exciting. We love to see specificity in creative work, and the image of the Thai iced really brought this poem alive, grounding the reader and the poet in the moment as we followed this rhythmic journey.
Second place goes to D. K. Shepard for For the Birds, a light love poem that considers the measures of affection (compliments a precious ring) and chooses to discard them if they are not from the beloved. “For the birds” might be considered a cliché, but here the poem makes that vision concrete. Well done!
Some fine runners-up: Connor Darrall, in at length evening comes, visits an ancestor’s grave in Ireland and conjures the spirits of the dead in metre; the poetic voice in Penny Fuller’s Retrospect looks back on a life, considers choices and survival schemes, and moves toward a gentle optimism with delicacy and skill. Morgana Miller’s Out Cast pushes against the boundaries of the form, tinkering just a bit with the pattern so that absolutely strictly speaking it doesn’t fall under the rubric of a villanelle. But the adjustment is very slight; poetry is alive; and the vivid and original imagery (envisioning colors such as “notenough” or “leadballoon”) drew our praise. And just to say — we enjoyed Dane BH’s moving Patriarch’s villanelle; however the form was just a bit too far beyond the traditional villanelle scheme to make the shortlist. But we love your work, Dane.
As ever we’re inspired by your vision and creativity. Here’s to lots more of it in 2024. You can check out the full list of winners HERE and learn about our current challenges below: