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Virelai: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the virelai, a French form with nine-line stanzas and alternating rhymes.

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the virelai, a French form with nine-line stanzas and alternating rhymes.

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Virelai Poems

The virelai is a French poetic form with alternating rhymes and line lengths. Here are basic guidelines:

  • nine lines per stanza
  • lines one, two, four, five, seven, and eight have five syllables
  • lines three, six, and nine have two syllables
  • the five-syllable lines rhyme with each other and the two-syllable lines rhyme with each other to make the following rhyme patter: aabaabaab
  • the end rhyme for the short lines continues on in the following stanza
  • the final stanza's short-line end rhyme should be the same as the long-line end rhyme in the opening stanza (to complete the end-rhyme circle)

Note on stanzas: This form can contain as few as two stanzas to infinity (if you could write that many). My example below has three stanzas, but this can change.

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Here’s my attempt at a virelai:

talk the talk, by Robert Lee Brewer

talkers like to talk
& walkers will walk
without
weighing who to block
or watching the clock
about
when to tick or tock
or pick up a rock
& shout

there's never a doubt
about the right route
to take
whether north or south
or straight from her mouth
to make
a smile into pout
or a with without
real fake

& see what's at stake
in a william blake
or mock
poem to forsake
near the shallow lake
we talk
about what we fake
when we'd rather take
a walk

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