Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Villanelle

The Villanelle is a structured poetry form. This may intimidate some, but I find it a fun form to work with. It has two refrains (repeated phrases) that alternate throughout the poem. I like the musical quality of the Villanelle, and that the refrains are more subtle in their repetition.

The Villanelle below is one I wrote during last year's poetry month.

If you want to read my very first Villanelle, it's actually the sample poem for Chiaroscuro. I also wrote one earlier this month, featured in my rain post.

The Author

A goddess, many worlds do I create
to fill with danger, passion, magic, flight,
with words alone manipulating fate.

A lonely princess on a grand estate,
a dragon in his lair just out of sight,
a goddess, many worlds do I create.

Each character is given a strong trait
then thrown into some unforgiving plight;
with words alone manipulating fate

When countless suitors seek to procreate,
the dragon takes them out with just a bite.
A goddess, many worlds do I create

A hero uses wit to then debate
and keeps the dragon occupied all night,
with words alone manipulating fate.

The dragon tricked to eat some poisoned bait
the princess freed to her own tale rewrite.
A goddess, many worlds do I create,
with words alone manipulating fate.

I found the trick with the Villanelle is to write your final couplet first. Then work the rest of the poem around it. And before you start, come up with a good list of words that rhyme with lines A and B, as it's just the two end rhymes throughout the whole poem. You need to make sure there's enough potential before diving in and running out of workable words halfway through.

And to get a better visual for how I write a Villanelle, here's my initial notes for the above poem:

AbA/abA/abA/abA/abA/abAA

[Capital A's are the refrain, lowercase are rhyming words.]

(7 a's, 7 b's)

a – create, bait, date, eight, fate, ate, rate, wait, trait, berate, debate, deflate, restate, state, soul mate, estate, procreate

b – flight, light, site, sight, white, night, plight, right, height, trite, quite, bite, ignite, knight, rewrite

A goddess, many worlds do I create
With words alone manipulating fate


A A goddess, many worlds do I create
b to fill with danger, passion, magic, flight.
A With words alone manipulating fate

a A lonely princess on a grand estate
b a dragon in his lair just out of sight
A A goddess, many worlds do I create

a Each character is given a strong trait
b then thrown into some unforgiving plight
A With words alone manipulating fate

a When countless suitors seek to procreate
b the dragon takes them out with just a bite
A A goddess, many worlds do I create

a A hero uses wit to then debate
b and keeps the dragon occupied all night
A With words alone manipulating fate

a the dragon tricked to eat some poisoned bait
b the princess free to her story rewrite
A A goddess, many worlds do I create
A With words alone manipulating fate


I went with iambic pentameter (10 syllables) for this one, whereas Downpour follows the refrain and rhyme scheme, but not the meter.

Have you ever tried to write a Villanelle? I'd love to read it.
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