Villanelle is a form of poetry I became interested in last year. It is a highly structured form comprised of 19 lines: five tercets (three line stanzas) followed by a quatrain (a four line stanza). The first line is repeated at the end of the second and fourth tercets. The third line is repeated at the end of the third and fifth tercet. The first and third lines then form the last two lines of the ending quatrain. Confused? Just wait. We haven’t even got to the rhyme scheme yet!
The first and third lines of every tercet rhyme with each other, as do the first, third, and fourth lines of the final quatrain. The second line of every tercet and the quatrain rhyme with each other.
One of the more famous villanelles is “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas. I learned about the form by studying Thomas’s poem.
I have written a couple villanelles and hope to write more. Tight structures like the villanelle require hard work and a different type of creativity than free verse. But I enjoy the challenge. In fact, I might engage more fully with writing when I’m not sure I can succeed. Call me crazy 😉
Below is the first villanelle I wrote, which will appear in my upcoming book, Event Horizon. Hopefully, it helps readers make sense of my explanation of the villanelle as well!
Clouds upon the Wind The trees’ leaves burst in blazing orange and red when summer ends; they turn to ashen hues then drift away in clouds upon the wind. A fair and rodeo revive our bored stiff town and rescue us from feeling blue as trees’ leaves burst in blazing orange and red. Each skirted bauble, cowboy, and kiddie rides the rides, eats, laughs, and kicks up dust with boots, which drifts away in clouds upon the wind. Around the town’s a glow we’d soon forget: a 90,000 acre fire that grew as trees’ leaves burst in blazing orange and red. All briefly green and flowering things are fed to lapping flames while low smoke crawls and broods then drifts away in clouds upon the wind. As carousel and funhouse are interred in trucks, the setting sun’s a livid jewel; the trees’ leaves burst in blazing orange and red then drift away in clouds upon the wind.