A Literary Tie to Rodney Dangerfield?

  1. The rodney-dangerfieldIt’s true, and you’ve probably seen it.  In the movie Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield’s character recites and is inspired by Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.”  The poetic form known as the villanelle is a tough one to write, requiring two regularly repeating lines, or refrains.  The greatest challenge lies in creating refrains that are strong enough and flexible enough to be worked into the poem over and over without becoming tiresome, stodgy, or insensible.  Oh yeah, and they have to rhyme.


When I set out to write a villanelle, I took as subject matter the unadorned architecture of strip malls and used it to reflect on the general blandness of day-to-day suburban life.  So my poem is not as lofty as Thomas’s, but I believe I stayed true to the form.  Here is my attempt:





As featureless as dried mud, dull and beige,

and failing to attract my loyalty,

two strip malls squat, wherein bides this malaise


that has no cure.  It’s not an every-place

but a paean to mediocrity,

as featureless as dried mud.  Dull and beige


storefronts house businesses of middling taste.

We frequent only one of them, maybe

two.  Strip malls squat, wherein bides this malaise


that Walker Percy calls the modern state

of mind, its exterior equally

as featureless.  As dried mud, dull and beige,


absorbs despair in fissures, like numbed rage,

convenience dictates that we visit the

two strip malls.  Squat.  Wherein bides this malaise,


the sting of reality dissipates.

Markers of class are difficult to see.

As featureless as dried mud, dull and beige,

two strip malls squat, wherein bides this malaise.



*photo courtesy of www.ericgarland.co/2013/12/02/u-s-colleges-keep-football-team-ice-pick-english-department/


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