Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle" is his most famous poem. People praise it for its tragic beauty, the way he rages against death, seeming to counter another poem he wrote (Death Has No Dominion). It saddens me, though, that the majority of people do not know the form in which it was composed. For Dylan did not go without a tennis net (Robert Frost reference) when he raged against the dying of the light. He took a much overlooked form, the vilanelle, much overlooked for its difficulty. (I wrote one when I was nineteen; it's in a journal somewhere, and have yet to try again). He constrained himself to the repetitions, the nineteen lines, the tercets and final quatrain. And walked in a form that brings self delusion, does not seem to evoke a conversation, yet walks into the meditation of dead, quiet things, things that scream for mercy and tear us (all) apart. The real poet finds instinct, yes, but the real poet must also be a critic. I do not listen to the claptrap that art is all inspiration. And that the greatest artists have a Muse. To me, it is bullshit. When Dylan wrote this, he worked within the form. Because form depersonalizes the rage of passion, that unchecked just brings forth messy ranting. It's this depersonalization that makes the poem most powerful. Effortless. Much as I value him and this, the most famous vilanelle ever written (Do Not Go Gentle), I must say it is not my favorite vilanelle. One that has been quite overlooked is Theodore Roethke's The Waking. And I will tell you a secret, out of all the poetry I've experienced, this is, by far, my favorite poem. (The Waking). "I wake to sleep and take my waking slow..." No one has ever topped that opening line, by my estimation. And by my estimation, no one can even be considered a poet until they have tried, the vilanelle. Now for some messy ranting! Yesterday, I decided to write a poem for someone of great beauty. I put it to paper, yes, the old fashioned way with a pen. And I had the thought that perhaps I should linger over it, take my time. But this came out in ten minutes. Exactly what a poet should not do! Still, I am posting it, as a dedication. Just do not assume it is about love or passion or anything but the dream of always being seen, even by what you may never see:
The deep black of their deep light,
Fused, in the lichen, of a dead rock
In the isolation of an even deader night,
Your eyes. Take me back, and give mine sight.
So long, so long I wandered, mine gouged
By my very own hands, torn from flesh
And even ghost, in the adulation of dead men
Whose words spoke love, but could not see,
I was more than they could ever see.
My eyes. Threads of blue, phosphoric flames,
Falling away,in a glass box, where tears
Work to take their flames away.
And being shut away, where all is lost,
In the lament of a song no word could sing,
I see your eyes, want to see, all that they,
Have seen. And have them break the glass,
And invigorate the blue, with your touch,
The touch of deepest black, rooted in earth,
Where worms may devour everything,
But nothing dies, when nothing lives.
Your eyes. They see. Everything.
And oh, I want them, to see me.
That I may touch the earth, and still see,
The ghost is only ghost when it is rooted.
In the isolation of a deep dead night:
Take me back, and give mine sight!