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"David Niven: a Villanelle"

I've become so enamored of all of the participating "Best Shot" writers that I miss people when they don't show up and stalk their blogs. Peter Swanson of Armchair Audience recently joined the informal "best shot" group and when I noticed no Singin' in the Rain post last Wednesday, I started clicking around his blog only to discover he's a published poet, and a fine witty one, too. He often writes about the movies and is currently completing work on a sonnet sequence about all 53 Alfred Hitchcock movies. 53 !!!

With his permission I'm sharing his 2007 poem inspired by Oscar winner David Niven which was originally originally published in The Vocabula Review. 

"David Niven: a Villanelle"
-by Peter Swanson 

There is a better world to live in: 
Dressed for dinner in black tie, 
Debonair like David Niven. 

With shoulders wide and sun-browned skin, 
The mustache trimmed, the bluest eye. 
There is a better world to live in, 

Where formality’s a given, 
A place where you, in black, and I, 
As neatly dressed as David Niven, 

Drink silver cocktails shaken 
Very cold and very dry. 
There is a better world to live in, 

Of string quartets, of My Blue Heaven, 
Of clouds and girls that never cry, 
Of men that look like David Niven, 

Or close enough, something akin, 
Beneath some starry, starry sky. 
There is a better world to live in, 
Dead and gone like David Niven.


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Reader Comments (7)

Thanks for posting this. The wonderful David Niven. I just bought his autobiography Bring On the Empty Horses to read. Looking forward to some debonair action!

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Edward -- ooh. i didn't even know he'd written one. I've read so few hollywood bios / auto bios and I'm guessing I'd like them a lot more than hollywood biopics ;)

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Nathaniel: He wrote this and one called The Moon's a Balloon. Apparently they're more like books of reminiscences and funny anecdotes from his Hollywood days than full-blown autobiographies, but it's the closest we have. I've heard good things about them (and I remember my mum read them when I was a kid), so here's hoping they're good.

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

What a great poem! I'm so impressed that people can still write poems that are accessible and fun to read. Gore Vidal called poetry an archaic profession, like being a cobbler. And movie poems, what could be better.

I used to occasionally see David Niven films on TV when I was a kid, and to a kid, he somehow appeared to be a perfect adult. I remember in The Pink Panther, I was so bored with the Peter Sellers sections and so delighted with the David Niven sections. I loved one with Niven and Marlon Brando called Bedtime Story (remade as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) which lead to my hard to shake assumption that Brando was a comedian.

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

that is a fantastic poem.

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Both of David Niven's books are terrific, especially if you're a fan of old Hollywood. They're light and airy, and dapper, just like DN.

I remember seeing Bonjour Tristesse at an old movie theater when I was in high school, and leaving the place feeling extremely disturbed.

August 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I can also recommend "Bring on the Empty Horses". I read it as a teenager back in the 80's, knowing Niven only really from the "Pink Panther" movies, "Around the World in 80 Days" and the Oscars, and it was a fun, witty, martini-friendly read. You should enjoy it.

August 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267
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