Pandemic social life as villanelle

When I took creative writing in high school my idea of writing a poem was writing down some thoughts that felt expressive to me and organizing those thoughts into lines of various lengths. Our teacher gave us assignments to write poems in form: sonnets, pantoums, villanelles. This seemed artificial and out-of-date and absurdly restrictive. Why should line 2 have to rhyme with line 5?

What our teacher said was that the absurd restrictions are there to be restrictions. If you sit down with the goal of expressing yourself you only say what you intend to say and this is rarely interesting. The restrictions of form force you into a channel you’re not used to and then you might find yourself saying something you didn’t know you wanted to say.

So maybe pandemic social life was like that? It sort of was, for me. I wasn’t in the office so I didn’t see math people and chat with them there as usual. I wasn’t running into people at the coffeeshop. So I did some things I didn’t usually do. I was on Zoom calls with groups of people from my class in high school. I impulsively accepted Misha Glouberman’s invitations to be on Zoom calls with groups of Canadians I barely knew. I called old friends on the phone without warning them I was going to call, and talked to them. People I usually talk to about every five years I talked to every three months.

Writing a sonnet in class doesn’t mean you go around talking in sonnets afterwards. Maybe you never write a sonnet again. But the things I did when my social life ran through this weird channel are things I’m glad I did.


5 thoughts on “Pandemic social life as villanelle

  1. illlive says:

    What a tease. I thought you actually wrote a villanelle!

  2. Jon Awbrey says:

    Pandemick as a Limerick

    Dolomphious Donny Invincible,
    Triumphantly incompetensible,
    Dined with No. 2, Pence
    On hydroxychloroquince —
    And now all his spoons are runcible.

  3. I saw the title, and thought it was going to be about Killing Eve

  4. Min Ro says:

    At the same time though, if I can’t express myself in any verse, then forcing me to write a villanelle or sonnet might not do me any good. This is how I felt about my social life in the pandemic; my social life was already quite bad, putting me in social distancing didn’t help.

  5. Ryan Scott Jones says:

    I no longer believe that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. Biden won, fail and square. It was a highly unusual and unique election, however, and it looked stolen, when compared to previous elections. But Covid and mail in ballets and drop boxes changed everything. And there was and awful lot of very convincing misinformation on the internet.
    My conversion back to reality is solely due to a local (Atlanta) talk show host named Erick Erickson. I think he will be going national soon, but being a college professor probably keeps you way too busy to listen to talk radio. I know this in part because my best friend is a college professor. He is a physics professor at Stony Brock University on Long Island. He is always very busy. He is the only publicly stated Republican professor at his school. He is now in the process on getting tenure. He models type 1A supernovae explosions on computers so that we can use this stander candle to get better estimates for the expansion rate of the universe and to model the structure of the galaxies to help us better understand both dark energy and dark matter. I think he is underrated in his field because of his outspoken political activism. He is still very much convinced that the election was stolen.
    I doubt you would continue to listen to Erick Erickson even if you had time to do so because, despite his sanity, he is still a Republican. For some Democrats, their party and its related activism is their substitute religion; they just don’t notice their own religiosity. It is apparent to most observant Republicans. You should be very thankful that you are still Jewish. That, and the pure logic of mathematics, has probably saved you. The amazing order of mathematics comes from God. Try to always see the miracles in life. They are the only reason I’m not still an atheist.
    Ryan Jones

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