Vers de Societé

Mother & Aunt BethIt’s like this:

Going to a new floor for a long time to undergo strange procedures is scary. Then you settle into a kind of “warrior mode”: you are ready to do battle. The reality of the prolonged stay no longer matters, only the little things, which really are the only important things.

Waiting in my room to be taken to the University of Virginia Hospital I leafed through Doorways to Poetry discovering an unusual style called vers de societé. Fashionable people who visited cafés in Paris during the 1890s were particularly fond of this style.

The verse was exquisitely eloquent—and ridiculous; it made great drama out of nothing. My conception of poetry, that it should suggest a deeper meaning, did not seem to apply. Vers de societé mocked such a notion. With clever ingenuity the poet made disproportionately large that which seemed insignificant, thus teasing the senses and delighting us. Vers de societé turned large and small inside out.

A prized example was My Mistress’ Boots:

My Mistress’ Boots

I tremble when they come!
They nearly strike me dumb!
Pit-a-tat!
This palpitation means
These boots are Geraldine’s:
Think of that!

And went on for nine more stanzas.

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