Tag Archives: Villanelle

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…)

A Master of all Forms

If I know one thing for certain it is this: not one person has ever woken up one morning, said they wanted to be a writer without ever having studied or practiced writing, and cranked out the best story ever (sorry Tom Hanks) or a decent poem.

Sorry again Tom Hanks.

No, my friends, writing takes practice. One way I suggest you practice is by writing poetry, whether or not you are a poet. Poetry gives a writer great practice in conciseness, simile and metaphor, rhythm, structure, and diction choices, just to name a few. Great writers of the past like William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Andrew Marvell wrote multiple forms of poetry as a way of mastering their craft. Why not do the same?

Here are two poetic forms to get you started on your journey to master different poetic forms.
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