a nineteen-line poem divided into five tercets and a final quatrain. The villanelle uses only two rhymes which are repeated as follows: aba, aba, aba, aba, aba, abaa. Line 1 is repeated entirely to form lines 6, 12, and 18, and line 3 is repeated entirely to form lines 9, 15, and 19; thus, eight of the nineteen lines are refrain. Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is an example of a villanelle.

Jared Carter

Somewhere within the murmuring of things
that make no difference—aimlessly playing,
drifting in the wind—a loose door swings,

banging against a wall; the piece of string
that held it shut has blown away. Delaying,
somewhere within the murmuring of things,

crickets and tree toads pause, listening;
now they go on with their shrill surveying.
Drifting in the wind, a loose door swings

in widening arcs. Each rusty iron hinge
creaks in a different key: each is decaying,
somewhere within. The murmuring of things

wells up—the quickening thrum of wings,
the pulsing, intersecting voice swaying,
drifting in the wind. A loose door swings;

no torch, no adventitious thread brings
meaning to this maze, this endless straying
somewhere within the murmuring of things.
Drifting in the wind, a loose door swings.

Jared Carter’s “Labyrinth” is a prime example of the literary term, villanelle. In this nineteen-line poem, the five tercets introduce a repetitive idea about the components of life. These components have been strung together for so long and are now slowly diminishing. The redundancy of the line, “murmuring of things,” adds a sound to the poem. The final quatrain leads back to the beginning of the poem, reiterating the theme and adding character to the story.

Link: Kill in Hell

"He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life."

~Victor Hugo

Jared Carter

Jared Carter is a Midwesterner from Indiana. He studied at Yale and at Goddard, and worked briefly as a newspaper reporter. After military service and travel abroad, he made his home in Indianapolis, where he found employment in textbook publishing. He continues to serve as a consultant in that field.

In his main body of work, Carter offers "a local habitation and a name," and invites the reader to explore a place called Mississinewa County, a world of small towns and family farms and hard-working people who live close to the land.
The many characters in Carter’s poems--soldiers, Shakers, farmers, ex-football players, berry pickers, derelicts--strive to maintain their dignity and to uphold their traditions. It is the striving that connects them with the universal, and it is the author’s craftsmanship--a style one critic, H. L. Hix, has described as "diamond-hard clarity"--that makes them memorable.
Mississinewa County first sprang to life in Carter’s initial book, Work, for the Night Is Coming. Critical response was immediate. "From beginning to end," Dana Gioia wrote in his review of the book in Poetry, "this volume has the quiet passion of conviction, the voice of a poet who knows exactly what he wants to say and how to say it." In McGill’s Literary Annual, Henry Taylor described Work, for the Night Is Coming as "one of the clearest and strongest first books to have appeared in recent decades." Writing for Library Journal, Margaret Gibson called it "a true winner. It is simply splendid."
Carter’s second collection, After the Rain, attracted similar notice. "Extraordinary," Gioia reported in the Washington Post Book World, "a dark, haunting book in the tradition of Frost." In New Letters Book Reviewer, Ted Kooser found After the Rain to be "a moving and masterful book, charming in the best sense of that word." It offered "proof," Robert Phillips wrote in the Houston Post, "that the art of poetry is alive and well in America." Perhaps Robert McPhillips, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, 1994, best summed up the critical reaction to Carter’s second book: "Well crafted, philosophically profound, and eminently readable. . . the finest, most varied, and most rewarding volume of poetry published in 1993."

Carter’s third collection, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, published by Cleveland State in 1999, takes the reader even farther into Mississinewa territory. At the same time it pays homage to one of Carter’s particular interests, the heritage of French exploration and discovery in the American heartland. Always an upholder of traditionalism in prosody and poetic practice, Carter turns, in this third book, to the extremely repetitive and very French poetic form of the villanelle. David Lee Garrison, writing in The Southern Indiana Review, found these villanelles to be "as simple and subtle as the change in light and shadow against a wall created by the shift of a log in the fire, the sound of a door swinging open in the wind, or peonies that reveal an old pathway through an orchard."