Tag Archives: France

So You Want to Write A Villanelle

Okay so maybe you don’t want to write a villanelle, but that’s only because you don’t know what a villanelle is yet. But once you do know what a villanelle is, you’ll totally want to write one because it is a fun form to write.

In 16th century Italy and Spain, dance songs known as villanella or villancico were peasant tunes without any fixed form. French poets started to write poems called villancelle that again did not follow any fixed rhymes or schemes shortly thereafter.

The first villanelle with a fixed structural form, Jean Passerat’s Villanelle also known as J’ay perdu ma tourterelle, came about in the late 19th century. While the villanelle started in France, it never really caught on there but American poets claimed the poem form and are most known for executing its rigid structural form.

One of the most famous practitioners of the villanelle is Dylan Thomas, with his poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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.

Now that you’re familiar with the form, let’s talk about the specific features that make the villanelle a villanelle. (more…)

The Getty: Desks and Writing Accessory Collection

I love museums. When I was in China in the summer of 2012 and Taiwan in the summer of 2013, I made it a point to visit national museums. I did the same when I visited San Francisco one summer. Heck, I’ve even taken vacations down to San Diego and spent a weekend just going to museums.

What can I say? I may be a bit of an addict. History is fascinating, though, from looking at the national treasures of China at the Taiwanese National Museum of Art to checking out the living rooftop of the California Academy of Sciences Museum in San Francisco, every museum I’ve visited has left me a little bit richer in the way of knowledge.

This weekend I visited The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Aka, my own backyard. While many of the collections made an impression on me, what got me the most excited was desk collection.

15 Historic Poetry Recordings We’re Lucky to Have

Technology has made the life of writers and readers much easier. We can store thousands of books in an e-reading device; write, edit, and save stories with a word processor; and use our phones as a dictionary and thesaurus and skip lugging the heavy books around. Now that many classic literary texts have been entered into the public domain, readers can find some of the greatest works in history with the click of a button. And as William Faulkner once said, “Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.”

That same logic applies to poetry too, of course. And as poetry is often read aloud, it’s a great idea to listen and learn from some of the masters. Thanks to technology, we have the ability to access historic recordings of some classic poets, like Dylan Thomas and Langston Hughes.

You’d be surprised by how many great poets can’t read well. By that, I don’t mean they’re illiterate, but, for whatever reason, when they read their poems they don’t engage with their audience. Personally, Ezra Pound’s voice grates at me, but I really enjoyed Anne Sexton’s recording of “Letter Written on a Ferry.” It was honest and soothing; it lulled the listener in.

But listen and decide for yourself. I’ve included fifteen historic recordings, with links to The Poetry Archive, where you can hear them, below.

1. “Anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings

Ezra Pound - Creative Commons
e.e. cummings 1917 passport photo

2. “The Waste Land Part V – What the Thunder said” by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot


Author Spotlight: Melanie Dobson


Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. The former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie now lives with her husband, Jon, and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Chateau of Secrets - COVER
Buy the book here:

The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.

Melanie Dobson: A noblewoman hides French resistance while Germans occupy her home.

TPP: What inspired you to write Chateau of Secrets?

MD: The courageous story of a French noblewoman by the name of Genevieve de Saint Pern Menke inspired me to write this novel. Her granddaughter shared Genevieve’s stories of courage and faith with me, and I was captivated by her bravery in hiding the French resistance in tunnels under her family’s château while the Nazi Germans occupied her home. Genevieve left a beautiful legacy, and I hope readers are inspired by her story as well.

TPP: What was the most difficult part of writing a historical novel?

MD: I often say the reason that I write historical fiction is because I love to learn! One of the most difficult parts for me is to stop researching and start the actual writing. Also, as I write, I struggle to find the balance between adding believable details to a story and overwhelming readers with too much information. I’ve learned that compelling historical fiction should be rooted in good research, and then if all goes well, the story will flow naturally from the facts.

TPP: How did you go about writing the intertwining story lines? Was it difficult to write one in present day and one in the past?

MD: It was incredibly challenging for me until I began to write the present day sections in first person. That change seemed to breath life into Chloe Sauver’s perspective. Then I began weaving together Chloe’s struggle with fear and doubt and her grandmother’s story of courage and faith. After I finished my first draft, I rewrote and rewrote until the timing seemed right.

TPP: What do you want readers to take away from your novel?

MD: Château of Secrets is about seemingly ordinary people who stood against evil, often working in secret as they fought against the Nazis and protected innocent people marked for death. As I wrote this story, I was reminded that we all have many opportunities today to stand against evil and protect those who are suffering. We may not be risking our life, but it is always extraordinary to sacrifice finances, time, and even our pride to help someone in need.

TPP: What advice can you give aspiring authors? What advice do you wish you would have been given?

MD: Don’t sweat the first draft! I think it’s important for aspiring authors to get their story on paper. Once the story is down, they can begin the process of editing their plot and polishing their words. When I first started writing, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my characters, and it took me a long time to realize that conflict is what makes a compelling story. Now all sorts of bad things happen to my good characters… But they always triumph in the end!

TPP: Name 2-3 songs that would be on a soundtrack to your novel?

MD: “Mighty to Save” by Seventh Day Slumber, “Blessings” by Laura Story,and I think Chloe would be personally motivated by the lyrics from Frozen’s “Let It Go”. I checked with Genevieve Menke’s daughter-in-law, and she thinks that would have made Genevieve smile.
To learn more about Melanie Dobson, visit her website.