Posts Tagged ‘Harold Boatrite’

An Advent villanelle from Philadelphia’s Frank Wilson: “one of those memories that are like photographs”

Sunday, December 1st, 2019
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The first day of Advent this year, on a footpath in Yonkers, NY. Photo courtesy Izabela Barry.

Today is the first day of Advent. Is there any poem to commemorate the day? I had to look no farther than “Books Inq.,” the blog of Frank Wilson, retired book editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Walking home

The poem began when he was visiting his friend, the composer Harold Boatrite, who had set another villanelle of his to music. Frank had been studying piano with the composer, who lived on a short, tree-lined street in the heart of Philadelphia, and the lessons often finished with discussions of religion. “As I left his house one day, I looked up at the sky and around at the trees, and the first line just came to me,” Frank recalled.

“Advent had just begun and I must have been thinking of it, because the third line, which of course rhymes with the first, then came to me. I had nice long walk home ahead of me and, like Wallace Stevens, that’s when I liked to work on poems. The second line reference to winter, despite the clear and sunny, not-so-very cold day, gave the line the context I needed, and I had the first stanza of a villanelle. If memory serves, it was mostly – if rather roughly – done by the time I got home.”

“That opening line coming to me just after I left Harold’s has been with me ever since, one of those memories that are like photographs. I never look at the poem without being back at that moment of that day.”  

Advent

The leaves are fallen, but the sky is clear
(Though winter’s scheduling an arctic flight).
The rumor is a rendezvous draws near.

Some say a telling sign will soon appear,
Though evidence this may be so is slight:
The leaves are fallen, but the sky is clear.

Pale skeptics may be perfectly sincere
To postulate no ground for hope, despite
The rumor that a rendezvous draws near.

More enterprising souls may shed a tear
And, looking up, behold a striking light:
The leaves are fallen, but the sky is clear.

The king, his courtiers, and priests, all fear
Arrival of a challenge to their might:
The rumor is a rendezvous draws near.

The wise in search of something all can cheer
May not rely on ordinary sight:
The leaves are fallen, but the sky is clear.

Within a common place may rest one dear
To all who yearn to see the world made right.
The leaves are fallen, but the sky is clear.
The rumor is a rendezvous draws near.