• Sarah E Waring

Poetry Lesson 1 - The Villanelle

There is nothing like throwing you in at the deep end with the intensity of the tightly structured Villanelle.


This type of poem is designed to be a shin kicking, intense statement of thought. With its repetition, rhythm and amplified verse, you should not fail to get the message behind the Villanelle.


What is a Villanelle?


A two rhythm intense poem that amplifies meaning and emotion by use of clever repetition. Traditionally 19 lines in length, the Villanelle is a tightly structured poem that can go horribly wrong without a strong message behind it and without the entwined combination of rhyme and repetition

Now we have got the basics of what a Villanelle is, lets take a look at the structure

Structural considerations

  1. Although traditionally 19 lines in length, the Villanelle can have any length of line, as long as there are two rhyming lines.

  2. The lines are grouped into 5 tercets (Tercets are 3 lines of rhyming verse) and a quatrain (A stanza (verse) of four lines)

  3. The rhyming scheme is tricky to get your head around so you need to remember this. For the first of your rhyming line, it will be the first line, then the last line in the second and fourth tercet and the third line in the quatrain. For the second rhyming line, it will be the last line in the first tercet, the last line in the third and fifth tercet and then the last line of the poem which is the last line in the quatrain. This rhythm sequence is called ABA.

You still with me ? Don't worry, I will provide an example.

This is a Villanelle I wrote called The Folly of Fear


Fear does not hold the hand, it holds the mind (Rhyming line 1) And when guided by fear, love can’t be caught As fear grips the mind, love becomes blind (Rhyming line 2)

From an open heart, a pure love we shall find So don’t be fooled by the folly of thought Fear does not hold the hand, it holds the mind(Rhyming line 1)

A love without a fear is hard to find Something so rare and so often well saught As fear grips the mind, love becomes blind (Rhyming line 2)

Love and fear create limbo in the mind Then the wars of emotion are well fought Fear does not hold the hand, it holds the mind (Rhyming line 1)

Be kind to the self and kind to the mind Get rid of the folly of fearful thought As fear grips the mind, love becomes blind (Rhyming line 2)

If choices are made from the fear in mind Then the future will surely become fraught Fear does not hold the hand, it holds the mind (Rhyming line 1) As fear grips the mind, love becomes blind (Rhyming line 2)


Ok, so lets recap. I mentioned earlier that you need to have a message and a strong meaning. In my Villanelle, I opted for a theme around mental health and how we shouldn't give into our fears as it isn't our friend. It doesn't hold our hand in times of trouble, it controls our way of thinking ... and that was the message I wanted to portray.

Now this maybe the ideal opportunity for you to create a couplet like the two rhyming lines above (two lines of rhyming poetry)

So mine were:


Fear does not hold the hand, it holds the mind As fear grips the mind, love becomes blind


Remember these sentences will conclude and wrap up your poem with the meaning intended ... so pack a punch with it.


Now if you have done your couplet, you can add the rest to your Villanelle!


If you try your hand at a Villanelle, please do create it in a post and tag me as I would love to see it!


Next time, I will look at another type of poetry called the pantoum.


Some tips:

  • Make sure you don't try and fit a rhyme so it is contrived. You may have to admit defeat and change a word if you cant make it fit comfortably.

  • Try to allow the poem to flow with no end stopping (I.e flows into the next sentence)

  • Try to use same meter in every line to start ( a meter is a stressed and unstressed syllabic pattern in a verse) The iambic pentameter is popular with a Villanelle.

I hope you have a go, I hope you enjoy it and I hope you add to the tips and suggestions of this post.


Have a great day.




#poem #poetry #creativewriting #poetrylessons

© 2020 by @sarahewaring      Please note : As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases