Villanelles and the Art of Anguish by Maggie Dietz

Villanelles and the Art of Anguish by Maggie Dietz
April 26, 2024 Dietz Maggie

The essay for this month’s issue of Plume, “Villanelles And The Art of Anguish”, by Maggie Dietz reminds the reader why the villanelle endures as such a treasured, haunting form. In each of her eloquent analyses of the memorable villanelles she has chosen to write about, Dietz writes with both a scholar’s acumen and poet’s sensibility about just why classic villanelles have endured as continually new. “When mid-century poets dusted off the villanelle,” she observes with an authority that emanates equally from both her passion for and knowledge of the form, “they revealed a vessel immense enough to hold wonder and terror and complexity: a jar of fireflies, a straitjacket, a house.”
–Chard deNiord




J’ay perdu ma tourterelle;
Est-ce-point elle que j’oy?
Je veux aller après elle.

—Jean Passerat, 1606


I lost my turtledove;
Is it not she that I hear?
I want to go after her.



I have lost my turtledove:
Isn’t that her gentle coo?
I will go and find my love.

(tr. Amanda French)


Probably it isn’t prudent or useful for a writer to try to reverse engineer inspiration, a word I  shrink from and my students would call cringy, but I’m going to do it anyway because I want to  understand why it was a villanelle that broke the stalemate between me and a blank page.
For years I didn’t write.
I was and am, with my husband, raising two children, one of them suffering from profound  mental illness. The idiom there is apt: a child with these kinds of disorders suffers. I’m not  looking to throw my kid under the bus or make excuses, because there were plenty of reasons I  wasn’t writing, many of them banal: self-doubt, laziness, a teaching job I had to do, tenure at  said job, the weird hypervigilance that Donald Trump’s presidency demanded, the new Golden  Age of Television, teetering stacks of bedside books to get through, perpetual stacks of student  papers. These are the kinds of things that got in the way of my writing.
But what made me unable to write was an idea I had about parenthood: Writing meant I wasn’t  trying hard enough to alleviate my child’s pain. I took to heart Simone Weil: “To put oneself in  the place of someone whose soul is corroded by affliction, or in near danger of it, is to annihilate  oneself.”
Despite my efforts to subsume my child’s suffering, there arrived in our home a period so  difficult it was almost unbearable: I had lost my turtledove.


The part I like best about the story of the villanelle is that it keeps getting lost.
As an undergraduate first trying to write one, I’d have told you with the confidence of the  ignorant that it’s a French form—behold its French-sounding name—though I’d only ever read  villanelles written in English. Turns out the form’s nascency is more nebulous than the name  implies.
Villanelle is the plural Italian word for villanella, roughly translated “peasant song.” In a passage  from a popular anthology on poetic forms, the editors imagine villanelle germinating in the  mouths of field laborers of an unspecified era, somewhere in Italy, the layered verses intoned to the rhythms of harvest: “It may have taken its first, long-lost shape as an accompaniment to the  different stages of an agricultural task. Binding sheaves, perhaps, or even scything. No actual trace of this early origin remains.”i
My deep admiration for these editors’ work as poets is in no way dimmed by the similarity I’ll  point out between the field worker fantasia and student papers straining to make word counts or  the opening of “Druids,” a song from Rob Reiner’s 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap:

In ancient times,
Hundreds of years before the dawn of history
Lived a strange race of people, the Druids
No one knows who they were or what they were doing
But their legacy remains

Lest I fall into the trap of making things up, I’ll refer curious readers to a brilliant,  comprehensive book by Amanda French (whose translation of Passerat’s poem I quote from  here), Refrain, Again: The Return of the Villanelle.ii
An unauthoritative osmosis of my reading about the origin of the form, the long-story-short  version, goes like this:
Italian villanelle originated as courtly songs with country settings—imaginative labors about  actual hard work—that became the seeds for songs on rustic themes by sixteenth-century Italian  composers whose printed collections of music and lyrics may have been sung in private homes  for entertainment. From Italy the villanella made its way to France, where writers laid down  lyrics with refrains, similarly tinged with pastoral nostalgia, that composers then set to music,  each song titled “Villanelle.”
The villanelle as we know it owes its blueprint to the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century French  poet Jean Passerat. Among Passerat’s works is a nineteen-line love poem, published in 1606,  about a flown turtledove (“J’ay perdu ma tourterelle”), written in the pattern since designated the traditional villanelle: Five tercets, in which the first and third lines of the first stanza alternate as  the last lines of the succeeding four (the tercets rhymed ABA), followed by a quatrain that ends  with the two refrain lines stacked together. In Passerat’s time, though, there was no traditional  villanelle. Neither the Italian villanella nor the French villanelle followed a strict or standardized  form.
As can happen with anything of fashion, the villanelle eventually went the way of the farthingale  and disappeared. No one anywhere wrote one for some number of decades, maybe a century or  more (cue “Druids”). It was during this barren time that people who care about poetry began to  classify the villanelle as a sixteenth-century French poetic form. The form lay fallow until  nineteenth-century English poets dug it up and someone decided Passerat’s tourterelle design  was it. Undergraduate me agreed with them, despite never having heard of Passerat.


It should be said though I assume it’s obvious that I am not a scholar and my purpose here is not  scholarly. I’m writing to figure out why I wrote a villanelle after years of silence. I’d become  adept at ducking the muse, and then in a period of tremendous psychic pain, a villanelle  announced itself like some unruly angel. That was my experience: a refrain line, and then two,  gripped me and wouldn’t let go until I wrote the damn things down.


Two of the more famous nineteenth-century villanelles—by Oscar Wilde and W. E. Henley— are, like many poems of that era, at once florid and mannered. Wilde, who in his polemical essay  “The Critic as Artist” said “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling,” wrote these stanzas in  his villanelle titled “Theocritus”:
O Singer of Persephone!
In the dim meadows desolate
Dost thou remember Sicily?

Still through the ivy flits the bee
Where Amaryllis lies in state;
O singer of Persephone!

Wilde’s villanelle isn’t great. The best line of those quoted above is, to my ear, “Still through the  ivy flits the bee.” The poem goes on for the requisite nineteen lines, repeating the exclamation  and the question of the first stanza to punctuate a catalog of Theocritus’s characters— Polypheme, Daphnis, Lacon. As in Passerat’s poem there are pastoral elements, and the poem is  written in iambic tetrameter, the English meter that most closely mirrors Passerat’s heptasyllabic  lines. But here the repetitions feel decorative and expected, and the verse smacks of rhetoric. The  artifice of Wilde’s talking to Theocritus is a far cry from the intimacy of Passerat’s lyric “I,”  whose very life and heart have a stake in the subject. What it means to want to go after his love  shifts into existential territory in Passerat’s final quatrain:
Mort, que tant de fois j’appelle,
Prens ce qui se donne a toy:
J’ay perdu ma tourterelle,
Je veux aller apres elle.
Death, again entreated of,
Take one who is offered you:
I have lost my turtledove;
I will go and find my love.
l’ll go and find my love.
William Ernest Henley’s “Villanelle” is primmer and more pedantic than Wilde’s (I like to joke  his middle name may well have included an “a.”) I’ll share the first two stanzas, and you’ll get  the gist:
A dainty thing’s the Villanelle.
Sly, musical, a jewel in rhyme,
It serves its purpose passing well.

A double-clappered silver bell
That must be made to clink in chime,
A dainty thing’s the Villanelle;

Henley’s villanelle about villanelles, with its tinkling sentimentality, basically equates the form  to a doily. The bland refrain line “It serves its purpose passing well” doesn’t exactly bear  repeating. The poem includes in the fourth stanza this instruction with respect to the form: “You  must not ask of it the swell / Of organs grandiose and sublime –.” To which this reader  responds: Why the hell not?
I admire what French calls the “tenacious reiteration” of Passerat’s poem, the culmination of  which, in the last quatrain, is devastation and surrender. Where Passerat’s refrains are tenacious,  Henley’s are, to use his word, “dainty,” and to use my own, flaccid.
It should not come as a shock that there were Victorian women writing villanelles superior to  their male counterparts’ and whose work is less well-known. May Probyn’s “Villanelle,” like  Henley’s, brings in chiming bells, but one finds in the lines a clear lyric “I,” absent in Henley’s  poem—the poet as listener, trying to ascertain the marvel and message in what she is hearing, a  mysterious far-off call that seems “Half rapture…half despair –.” Here is the opening tercet,  establishing the refrains:
Where larks were singing high in air
I heard a sound like bells that chime,
Or tread of feet on golden stair, –

In the final stanza, the sounds of bells, larks, treading feet, assemble into a figure with “a voice  from out a starrier clime” who addresses the poet directly:
“The song,” it said, “who learns, must dare –
It is the Song of Future Time;
While larks make echo high in air
Its fullness shakes the golden stair.”

Probyn makes the bold move, more common to the postmodern villanelle, of varying the refrains  in the quatrain. The larks that “were singing” throughout the poem now “make echo high in air”; the tread of feet crescendos so that its “fullness shakes the golden stair.” The echoing larks of  course nod to the repetition fundamental to the form, a form Probyn finds sufficiently sublime to  herald the future and shake its own foundations. Probyn’s villanelle is not innocent of Victorian  mawkishness, but it is certainly more interesting a specimen, in terms of the form’s evolution,  than either Wilde’s or Henley’s. Probyn’s ars poetica cleaves more closely to the personal  urgency that compels Passerat’s speaker, and her use of the form predicts the variations and  tweaks to the villanelle that will become characteristic in “Future Time.”
Of the nineteenth-century villanelles I’ve read, I most like the American poet Edith M. Thomas’s  “Across the World I Speak to Thee,” a poem in which the austereness of the diction belies the  poem’s intrinsic lament, harkening back to the simplicity of Passerat’s language: “I want to go  after her.” What’s appealing here—and more relevant to where the form is going than the  villanelles by Wilde and Henley—is that the poem achieves a kinetic tension, evident in the  repeated lines—the declarative first line plainspoken, the imperative third line an aching cry:
Across the world I speak to thee;
Where’er thou art (I know not where),
Send thou a messenger to me!

It seems as if Thomas wrote her villanelle with Passerat’s in mind; in both poems the beloved  has flown, and the magnitude of the loss becomes apparent as the poem progresses.
As W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas will do later, Edith Thomas introduces more repetition than  the established form requires, creating a pattern with the opening lines of the third and fourth  stanzas, as the poet wonders where on earth the beloved has gone (“Whether beneath the tropic  tree,” “Whether upon the rushing sea”); the realm of possibility suggested by the word “whether”  opens into the metaphysical in the fifth stanza. It seems the speaker’s love will be found on  neither land nor sea:
Whether in yonder star thou be
A spirit loosed in purple air. –
Send thou a messenger to me!

Perhaps Thomas subscribed to Victorian spiritualism and believed the dead were indeed capable  of sending messengers. But even the occult can’t conquer death: any message would not herald the beloved’s return. Here is the quatrain:
Hath heaven not left thee memory
Of what was well in mortal’s share?
Across the world I speak to thee;
Send thou a messenger to me!

Thomas is not doing what later poets will do, using enjambment and punctuation to change the  syntax of the refrains and thereby their meaning, but the two repeated lines are nonetheless  transformed by the end of the poem. The imperative refrain has become impossible. The poet is  not speaking “across the world,” but beyond it.
I like this poem better than others because, though its meter is regular, it challenges the form.  It is by the end disoriented. Here the villanelle is a container for the uncontainable: loss, magical  thinking, resurgent and erratic waves of grief.
And Thomas differs from her Victorian counterparts in another significant way: She has skin in  the game.


Bad villanelles are boring. Some contemporary villanelles still feel dainty, limp as doilies in their  monochromatic use of the form. Or they feel like cultured pearls, forced into existence, and  insistent on their worth and beauty despite their congruent blandness. In others one can feel too  fervently the effort, the lines huffing and puffing as the poet exercises, like that guy in the gym  who cranks up the treadmill as soon as you’re next to him.

Not long after my undergraduate days of painstaking ba-bumming I’d given up on the idea of  ever writing one.


For a while the villanelle was a patient etherized upon a table.

Modernism’s sneering contempt for received forms more or less knocked it out. The cries for  depersonalization in poetry, while essential to the advancement of the art, didn’t leave lots of  room for the undisguised lyric “I.”
A villanelle James Joyce wrote as a teenager survives because he includes it in Portrait of the  Artist as a Young Man. Joyce had destroyed most of his early work after sending a poem to  Yeats in 1902 and receiving a candid response: “I think that the thought is a little thin. Perhaps I  will make you angry when I say that it is the poetry of a young man, of a young man who is  practicing his instrument, taking pleasure in the mere handling of the stops.”iii
By the time Joyce’s villanelle appeared in Portrait in 1915, his character and author surrogate  Stephen Dedalus had written it. The insistent repetitions, end-stopped and unvaried, do signal the  speaker’s artistic anxieties, but the poem, paradoxically, takes up the form and all its flourishes  to rebuke the excesses of Victorianism. The refrains are: “Are you not weary of ardent ways…?”  and “Tell no more of enchanted days.”
Ezra Pound wrote a 43-line poem in three sections titled “Villanelle: The Psychological Hour,” a  sonically lively, shaggy compendium of italicized voices about noncommittal friends and an  artist’s thirst for praise and attention. There’s plenty of hand-wringing repetition of words and  the stream-of-consciousness does cough up a couple of whole lines more than once (“I had  overprepared the event” and “Beauty is so rare a thing”) but otherwise the poem bears no  resemblance to the form its title pronounces it to be. Not that we don’t owe the guy, but Pound’s  “F you” to the form is among the many ways he crowned himself the king of poetry: He got to  decide what was and wasn’t a villanelle.


As the second half of the twentieth century approached, the villanelle proved a strong enough  patient to resuscitate. It woke up and started living its best life.
Picking up the form (and an extra foot in each line) from his friend William Empson, W. H.  Auden published what remains one of his most intimate poems, “If I Could Tell You,” in 1940. I  see a lot of that poem and never tire of it. Years back my husband gave our friends, to celebrate  their marriage, a framed print of the villanelle as it appeared on the London tube as part of  Poems of the Underground. Every time I’m in their downstairs bathroom, where they’ve  installed it, there is Auden, and I have to fight back stinging tears before I go out to crack another  beer. Here’s the familiar quatrain:
Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

I’m struck by how the pentameter feels necessary, as if Auden needed extra room to say what he  couldn’t. I probably don’t have anything new to add to what’s been written about the poem, but I  love that the first line “Time will say nothing but I told you so” becomes a question in the last  stanza, the kind of variation that will become more common. And that “lions” seems also to  mean “lines.” And “brooks and soldiers” is just the kind of unexpected phrase good poetry alone  uncovers. I’ve been reading that poem after washing my hands for twenty-something years and  time keeps meaning different things when it says I told you so.
Of the rightly celebrated chestnuts, Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” was next, in 1951. He kept Auden’s pentameter—that one extra foot did wonders for what a  villanelle could hold. So the midcentury villanelle, like a good refrain line, metamorphosed. We  all know how Thomas forked the lightning of the form. He uses enjambment to upset the  predictability of the pentameter; he transforms the imperative refrains of the first stanza (“Do  not go gentle into that good night” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”) in their next  two iterations, into the ends of declarative sentences (“…they/ Do not go gentle…,” for example,  or “Grave men…Rage, rage against”), only returning to the imperative in the quatrain after  appearing as “I” in the poem for the first time and revealing that he’s speaking to his father:


And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Despite the poem’s steady logic, driven by the four declarative tercets depicting different men  (wise, good, wild, grave), who by the end of their stanzas will either rage or reject going gentle,  and despite a trotting iambic meter with only a few spondees or trochees, the poem can hardly  contain its emotional thunder: the word “rage” appears eight times. Thomas’s villanelle is a  grenade forever thrumming in the moment between when the pin is pulled and the thing  explodes.
Theodore Roethke and Sylvia Plath both published villanelles in 1953. I’ll touch on something about each of them.
What’s always floored me about Roethke’s poem “The Waking” is the playfulness, joy even, in  its bewilderment and its dance with mortality; I’ve dwelled a lot on a single line, in part because  it seems to scratch at the ineffable: “Of those so close beside me, which are you?” Roethke’s  round in the ring with the villanelle isn’t as bristling as Thomas’s, though unlike Thomas he does  tinker a bit with the refrains. In the final quatrain Roethke gets at something essential about the  form:

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

The refrains in the best villanelles are both buttress and disruption; the steadiness must shake if  the form is to be fully realized.

Plath’s use of the form is at first glance more stilted than Thomas’s or Roethke’s. “Mad Girl’s  Love Song” is end-stopped but for a single line and there’s no variation in the refrains or,  because they are complete sentences, in the part they play in some larger syntax. Though Plath  does the distance trick in the title, announcing the villanelle as a dramatic poem voiced by a  third-person “mad girl,” the veil blows back in the slightest breeze:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head).

A little time with the poem makes clear that the stiffness of the syntax suppresses—like a drug or  a restraint—the speaker’s distress; the closed lines, the exact refrains, are essential to the poem’s gesture. The mad girl is looped into a mobius strip of wondering if her absent lover is real or  imagined (“I fancied you’d return the way you said”). Plath has lost her turtledove.
The quatrain reveals that like Passerat, like Edith Thomas, Plath isn’t placing any bets on the  lover’s return:
I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

When mid-century poets dusted off the villanelle, they revealed a vessel immense enough to hold  wonder and terror and complexity: a jar of fireflies, a straitjacket, a house.


Ta plainte se renouvelle?
Toujour plaindre je me doy
J’ay perdu ma tourterelle


Plaintively you speak your love;
All my speech has turned into:
“I have lost my turtledove.”

For a while things at home were so raw I didn’t know what to do. My days were unpredictable,  and I moved through them the way the professionals suggested: by putting one foot in front of  the other. Over the phone my sister and I coined bromides that made us laugh: Okay is the new  awesome! Fine is the new killing it!
During the four or so years I was not writing my life had one ever-present and consuming subject  and I could not find a way to make any art of it. In any case, the poems I needed to write were  deeply personal and involved the need to tread carefully around someone else’s life and privacy.
“Affliction is by its nature inarticulate,” says Weil. Whether I had any claim to what Weil means  by affliction, all my speech had turned into “I have lost my turtledove.”


That the villanelle is repeatedly resurrected is in more than one way a tautology: the very form  demands it resurrect parts of itself.


Some more contemporary villanelles have in common that they take up existential anxieties related to global events. The form has gone far from the field now, or the parlor, and it finds  refreshment in contemplating what we’re getting wrong.
Agha Shahid Ali’s “A Villanelle” is a brilliant and affecting meditation on the horrors of war. It  opens:
When the ruins dissolve like salt in water,
only then will they have destroyed everything.
Let your blood till then embellish the slaughter.
Ali’s use of the form braids threads of bereavement and futility and simmering fury.

Carolyn Kizer’s villanelle “On a Line from Valéry,” is a haunting apocalyptic meditation, whose title sometimes appears with “The Gulf War” in parentheses. Absent the extended title, the poem can read as a lament on the catastrophe of climate change; through either lens the poem reckons  with human complicity in actions with a human toll. The refrains serve up some thrilling  twists—“poisoning airs” becomes “poisoned heirs,” for example. Several enjambments and  sentences ending mid-line upset the rhythmic expectations so that the rhymes don’t always snap into place. Here’s the final quatrain:
All rain was dust. Its granules were our tears.
Throats burst as universal winter rose
To kill the whole green sky, the last tree bare
Beneath its canopy of poisoned air.

Some villanelles of the past few decades infuse the refrains with catechizing energy to square up  with big subjects. Rafael Campo’s “The Enemy” interrogates his own rage following 9/11. Lorna  Dee Cervantes dedicates “A Blue Wake for New Orleans” to blues singer Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who died after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Cervantes’s poem is full of “ooo”  sounds and irregularly metered lines, and the poet enchants the form into a crooning blues song.
These villanelles are Pandora’s boxes—the restraint required by the form barely keeping a lid on  the senselessness they address. In them we find the loss and lostness of humankind. The  villanelle suits these subjects: the inevitability of human missteps, of history repeating itself. The  poems are laudable, but they do not inhabit the lyric “I” with the duress of one whose love is at  stake. Even the individual voices represent a collective anguish; the speakers implore us all to do  better. They have lost faith or hope, but not turtledoves.


By now it’s conspicuous that missing from the connections I’ve drawn between villanelles and loss is Elizabeth Bishop’s 1976 villanelle “One Art,” whose first line is, of course: “The art of  losing isn’t hard to master.” Bishop’s version of the villanelle varies the second refrain line,  including always some negative leading up to the final repeated word: “…their loss is no  disaster,” “None of these will bring disaster,” “…it wasn’t a disaster.” The final line of the poem  is widely admired for the characteristic coolness, the casual oh-what-the-heck elan with which  Bishop busts up the form by commanding herself to write the word “disaster” without any  neutralizing “no” or “not.”
– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

I’ll just say: I, too, adore it.


One of the miracles of poetry, part of its bright-dark magic, is that it can take things that are  unwieldy and ragged and complicated and paradoxical and give them a physical and sonic shape.  This isn’t true only of traditional and metered forms, but a governing regularity does readily  impose the impression of sense, however tenuous, on chaos. I would argue that the villanelle in  particular lends itself to explorations of anguish. Tension is at the heart of the argument: the  visceral push and pull between the limitations of the form and the unlimited possibilities of  language, variation, punctuation, enjambment, imagination.
Some things are becoming clear to me. I’m most interested in poets who use the villanelle as a  means to swathe or harness or struggle against psychic pain, whose refrains create an echo that  swells and aches but also holds and steadies. The way a physical restraint may contain a body’s madness, rage, or brutality, the villanelle in its tightness and tautness can become vesture for  subjects that are painful or enormous or out-of-control.
I’m partial to villanelles in which a lyric “I” has something intimately personal at stake—skin in  the game—like Passerat and Edith Thomas, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Roethke, and Plath.iv


I’ve arrived I think at an answer as to why the unruly angel came knocking. And I’ve arrived at  the villanelle I wrote—in a time of loss and lostness—after not having written for several years.
Of course there’s a certain amount of terror and embarrassment that goes along with ending an  essay about villanelles with my own—why would I do such a thing? what even is this  undertaking?


I hope I’m not just practicing my instrument. Or setting the treadmill to eleven.  But that’s not for me to say.




If you would let me hold you I could breathe
Your purple hair, the flakes of makeup breaking
From your boiling eyes. You’d see how much you need
Cool words. Outside the door I’ve heard you seethe
Through years of trouble. I’d press away the shaking
If you would let me hold you. I could breathe
The atoms of your dreams, my face so close I’d eat
Your anguish, taste the tang of black tears leaking
From your locked-down eyes. You’d see how much you need
To forgive, to be forgiven, to reach and cleave
To something incorruptible and unforsaken.
If you would let me hold you I could breathe
Away your brinks, lay cushions underneath
Your cliffs. I’d let no shiv of light be taken
From your arctic eyes, you’d see. How much you need!
Is there no salve, no balm in Gilead
To breach the brick and thistle of your hatred?
If you would let me hold you I could breathe.
Your broken eyes would see how much you need me.


i Strand, Mark and Eavan Boland, eds. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. 1st edn. New York: W.W.  Norton, 2000.

ii French, Amanda. Refrain, Again: The Return of the Villanelle., 2004. 

iii French, 22.

iv A couple of contemporary villanelles I’d add to this list are Marilyn Hacker’s “Villanelle for D.G.B” (“Every day our bodies  separate”) and Mimi Khalvati’s “Villanelle” (“No one is there for you. Don’t call, don’t cry”).

Maggie Dietz’s third book of poems, If You Would Let Me, is forthcoming in 2026. She is the author of two previous collections, That Kind of Happy and Perennial Fall. Recent awards include a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from Jentel Arts in Wyoming. Dietz was the founding director of Favorite Poem Project, created by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky, and co-editor of three anthologies related to the project. Other awards include fellowships from Phillips Exeter Academy, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the NH State Council on the Arts. Dietz is Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.