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Poetic Forms: Villanelle

Learn how to write the villanelle, a French poetic form with plenty of rhymes and refrains. Find guidelines for writing villanelles and an example poem here.

The villanelle, like the other French forms, does have many of the same properties as the rondeau: plenty of rhyme and repetition. This French form was actually adapted from Italian folk songs (villanella) about rural life. One of the more famous contemporary villanelles is "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," by Dylan Thomas.

The villanelle consists of five tercets and a quatrain with line lengths of 8-10 syllables. The first and third lines of the first stanza become refrains that repeat throughout the poem. It looks like this:

A(1)
b
A(2)

a
b
A(1)

a
b
A(2)

a
b
A(1)

a
b
A(2)

a
b
A(1)
A(2)

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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 an example villanelle:

Paralegal

Lawyers are not paid to be nice;
they're expected to always win.
She can say it once, say it twice,

"If you want to take their advice,
you should know before you begin:
Lawyers are not paid to be nice."

They have their sin; they have their vice--
some with drink, others with women.
She can say it once, say it twice,

because she's seen every slice--
including both women and men--
"Lawyers are not paid to be nice."

But if you have suffered malice
and do not want to lose again,
she can say it once, say it twice,

"If you want to win, pay the price;
let the legal process begin."
Lawyers are not paid to be nice;
she can say it once, say it twice.

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