Hampton Roads Writers


Freewrite a scene, story, or poem inspired by this image. Use strong sensory details to evoke the imagery necessary to push this creation forward to completion.


Write this as a a traditional Villanelle:

  • The lines are grouped into five tercets and a concluding quatrain. Thus a Villanelle has 19 lines.

  • Lines may be of any length.

  • The Villanelle has two rhymes. The rhyme scheme is aba, with the same end-rhyme for every first and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain.

  • Two of the lines are repeated:

  • The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and the fourth stanzas, and as the second-to-last line in the concluding quatrain.

  • The third line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and the fifth stanzas, and as the last line in the concluding quatrain.

  • Thus the pattern of line-repetition is as follows:

  • A1 b A2 - Lines in first tercet.
    a b A1 - Lines in second tercet.
    a b A2 - Lines in third tercet.
    a b A1 - Lines in fourth tercet.
    a b A2 - Lines in fifth tercet.
    a b A1 A2 - Lines in final quatrain.

    In the above,
  • The lines of the first tercet are represented by "A1 b A2", because the first and third lines rhyme and will be repeated later in the poem.

  • The first line of each subsequent stanzas is shown as "a" because it rhymes with those two lines.

  • Meanwhile the second line ("b") is not repeated but the second line of each subsequent stanzas rhymes with that line.

  • . Steps to take in creating your Villanelle:

  • Draft a rhyming couplet with images that express your feeling or idea.

  • Draft a dozen or more rhyming couplets that each help you express the heart of your concern.

  • Pick the couplet that combines originality and expressiveness with some flexibility in the way those lines could be used in combination with others, and can be modified slightly upon repetition. Whether you work by hand or on your computer, place a copy of each line at every place that it (or its variant) will appear in your Villanelle. Be sure to follow the above guidelines for form. You will then have written 8 lines - almost half of the whole poem!

  • Now work on the rest of the Villanelle.

  • Use enjambment sometimes, so that your repeated lines are less obvious. Make the repeated lines an organic part of your poem, not just something pasted in.

  • Feel free to modify the lines that you set up for your original couplet. Then, repeat this modification throughout the poem (if you are following the form of strict repetition), or use the modifications to reflect something (such as a progression of internal emotions).

  • As with all formal poems nowadays, it is vital that the form does not "drive" your poem. If the rhyme scheme and form begin to feel forced, then the poem's content must be asserted.

  • A Last Word.
    Just because you start with the intention of writing a Villanelle, you do not have to keep your poem in that form if it does not work for you. Your attempt to write a formal poem may help you find words that you would not have found otherwise. And you may decide that you choose to end up with a poem in a different form, perhaps even a prose poem.


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