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Poetic Forms: Rondeau

Learn how to write the rondeau, a French poetic form that has 15 lines, three stanzas, and a couple refrains. Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" is a popular example of the rondeau.

Since I love French forms, it came as a surprise to me that I haven't covered the rondeau on this blog, yet. As with other French forms, there is an element of rhyming and repetition in the rondeau. In fact, the rondeau is related to the triolet—one of my favorites.

The rondeau is comprised of 15 lines across three stanzas with the first word or phrase from the first line represented as a refrain (R) and a rhyme scheme of two rhymes throughout (A and B). The rhyme and refrain scheme looks like this:

A (R)
A
B
B
A

A
A
B
R

A
A
B
B
A
R

The A and B lines are usually eight or 10 syllables in length. The refrain is usually one to three words (or so).

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The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.

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Here's my attempt at a rondeau:

The mother thinks, by Robert Lee Brewer

The mother thinks she is killing her son
with his shampoo—his hair coming undone
in her hands over time. He feels no pain
says the son. But she knows he'll feel again
the loss of his dad always on the run.

The mother remembers the morning sun
slanting on a messy bed of just one.
No note or cash—she remembers the pain.
The mother thinks

there is something she could have done. Her son
was not wanted by his dad. "No more fun,"
he said after learning. Heartbreaking pain
when instead of joy, he often complained
of her weight gain. Then, of course, he was gone,
the mother thinks.

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A fellow native of Dayton, Ohio, Paul Laurence Dunbar, wrote one of the most popular rondeaus in the English language: "We Wear the Mask."

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