“15 and a Union, Someday,” a villanelle

Ten hours of toil and what is your pay?
For sizzled flesh as spuds drop in
Fifteen and a union, someday

Managers give you grief every way
Those low, low prices mistaken
Ten hours of toil and what is your pay?

 

You’d think an adjunct does OK
Yet that check won’t bring home bacon
Fifteen K and a union, someday

When daily you are away
Kids and elders need carin’
Ten hours of toil and what is your pay?

Creating wealth for display
Corporate thieves enjoyin’
Fifteen now and a union, we say

For food and justice, global tongues pray
Echoes of May Day a-bornin’
Ten hours of toil and what is your pay?
Fifteen and a union today!

This poem is a villanelle, a form of poetry that traces its humble roots to the Italian countryside and peasants singing rounds during the harvest. The first poetic evidence of this form comes from a French poet, Jean Passerat, who died in 1602.

The formal characteristics of a villanelle are found in:

  • its 19 lines – five three-line stanzas with a final stanza of four lines;
  • its refrains – first and third lines are repeated as the last lines of stanzas two and four, and three and five, respectively;
  • its last two lines which are the two refrain lines;
  • its A-B-A rhyme pattern.

Perhaps the most well-known English language villanelle is “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. His repeating lines are the poem’s title and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

This villanelle was written for and inspired by Dr. Ryan Poll’s Forms of Poetry English class at Northeastern Illinois University.

Photo: Earchiel Johnson/PW

 


CONTRIBUTOR

Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano is a staff writer for People's World and an award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Chicago, Albano is a member of the Chicago News Guild-Communications Workers of America and has been covering political, labor and social justice issues for more than 25 years. Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People's World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW's social media presence.

Albano lived in New York City for 13 years and has traveled throughout the United States and abroad, including to India, Cuba, Angola, Italy and to Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. She received awards from International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women and Illinois Woman Press Association, including its prestigious Silver Feather Award. Albano attends Northeastern Illinois University and recently received NEIU's Future Alumni Leader award. She will graduate in December 2016. 

Combining her passion for swimming and for social justice, she founded the blog, Swimming Social, during the 2016 Rio Games. 

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