Poetry 101 - Kinds of Poems - The Villanelle

Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Villanelle


Writers Write shares writing resources and writing tips. In this post, we continue our poetry 101 series and discuss the villanelle.

I haven’t been able to decide if having a structure helps or hinders my poem writing process and, after researching the villanelle, I’m even more unsure. But I am itching to try it. As a rule I enjoy the confines of structure and revel in finding something new within a fixed form, but this is definitely next level stuff.

Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Villanelle

Repetition is a very powerful writing tool and the Villanelle is a great example of that. A very famous example of a villanelle is Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. Read it below, before we look at the structure.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

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 grieve 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.

How do I write a villanelle?

  1. It is a poem made up of 19 lines.
  2. The first five stanzas are Tercets. (Stanzas made up of three lines)
  3. The last stanza is a Quatrain. (Stanza made up of four lines)
  4. Rhyme scheme is typically ABA, for the Tercets and ABAA for the Quatrain.
  5. I have highlighted the repetition below.

It looks something like this.

Line 1 – a
Line 2 - b
Line 3 - a

Line 4 - a
Line 5 - b
Line 6 – a – Repeat of Line 1

Line 7 - a
Line 8 - b
Line 9 – a – Repeat of Line 3

Line 10 - a
Line 11 - b
Line 12 – a – Repeat of Line 1

Line 13 - a
Line 14 - b
Line 15 – a – Repeat of Line 3

Line 16 - a
Line 17 - b
Line 18 – a – Repeat of Line 1
Line 19 – a – Repeat of Line 3

And now read the poem again:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Poetry 101: Kinds Of Poems – The Villanelle

Here is an older example of a villanelle, One Art and a more recent example, Villanelle with Violin. Both poets made tiny changes to the repetition of the lines, which create beautiful progression in the poems. It is a challenging form, but one I hope you will attempt.

If you want, you can even create a villanelle with this generator.

Happy writing
Mia

P.S. If you are taking part in the 12 Poems Challenge, join the group on Facebook: 12 Poems in 12 Months

 by Mia Botha

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