Hacker, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler
  • Date of entry: Jan-05-2006


As suggested by its title, the poem is a villanelle: five tercets and, in lieu of a final quatrain, a final tercet, with the first and third lines, "Every day our bodies separate" and "not understanding what we celebrate" as the recurrent refrains (typically, Hacker makes some small changes to the refrain, with sensational effect).


Although the difficulty of using words to describe pain is a fairly common theme in medical humanities, it can also be argued that words are insufficient to re-capture any aspect of physicality, including sexual and romantic passions of the flesh. A delightful love song about the apparent incommensurability of body and language, "Villanelle" suggests that the emotional and physical connections people make are not susceptible to language ("speechless," "unlettered," "wordless"). At the same time, the poem's passion is fueled by the strict form, suggesting that poetry may allow celebration of what we do not understand and a framing, if not reunification, of what has been separated.


Originally included in Presentation Piece, 1974 (The Viking Press)

Primary Source

Selected Poems: 1965-1990


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York