Poetic Forms: The Villanelle


Hello Everyone!

Welcome to week one of poetic forms, where every week I will introduce a different type of poem and invite you to give it a go! As an added incentive to take part, the best poem every week will be featured on the Writing Gooder blog on Sunday afternoon, alongside a brief analysis by myself.

To enter a poem, make sure it’s written in this week’s style and then either post a link to it in a comment below, or post the full text of the poem.

The Villanelle

We’re starting off this week with one of my favourite types of poetry: the Villanelle! The great thing about the Villanelle is its use of rhythm and repetition, which adapts well to both light and dark themes. In this week’s example poem, Dylan Thomas uses the form to a haunting and heart-wrenching effect:


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)

Old age should burn and rave at close of day; (b)

Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)


Though wise men at their end know dark is right, (a)

Because their words had forked no lightning they (b)

Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright (a)

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, (b)

Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)


Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, (a)

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, (b)

Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)


Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight (a)

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, (b)

Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)


And you, my father, there on the sad height, (a)

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. (b)

Do not go gentle into that good night, (a1)

Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (a2)



How to do it

The Villlanelle works around two repeated lines and a regular rhyme scheme of aba aba until it reaches the final stanza, where it becomes abaa.

In it’s basic form it is 19 lines in length, represented as: a1-b-a2/a-b-a1/a-b-a2/a-b-a1/a-b-a2/a-b-a1-a2

Here, a1 and a2 are always the same line and every line with an a must follow the a rhyme scheme, while every line with a b must follow the b rhyme scheme. For example, if line a1 ends in hot, then the other a lines may end in not, pot, dot etc.

Another rule* of the Villanelle is that every line must be written in Iambic Pentameter. This is ten syllables in length and a rhythm of


Do not go gentle into that good night

Every second word should be a stress word, or have the ability to be stressed.

The most important thing when writing a Villanelle is to make sure that the two repeated lines are strong and versatile.

Good Luck Everyone!

*I am informed that this is an optional rule – thanks Niteowl!

** Image owned by Enokson at Flickr.


Heather, who goes by Rydia on YWS, has long been an aspiring author. In the early days of her life she attached herself to poetry and would curl up on the playground bench to scrawl down lines of forgotten virtue. Or, more likely, little virtue at all. At the very old age of 11, she joined The Young Writers Club and progressed into the realms of roleplay. Here she constructed characters to fight off dragons or rally to their allies' aid with healing spells; a joint love of gaming heavily influenced this fondness of adventure storybooks. A few more years went by before Heather became a serious novelist and she still considers poetry to be her favourite media for getting those thoughts down on paper. Outside of writing her loves include puzzle books, strategy/ fantasy games, movies, swimming, skiing (when she actually has money), crafty things, baking, food in general, fun pranks and anything involving snow.

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10 Responses

  1. Aley says:

    I am so stoked to see that this is going on! I will totally participate in this as much as I can and I am really excited to see what turns up! Here’s my submission for this week’s Villanelle challenge >3 <333


    Aley on YWS

    • Heather says:

      I’m glad you like the idea! And I love your entry, you’ve really challenged yourself with the B rhymes and it flows very nicely.

  2. Heather says:

    How’s everyone else doing? I’m writing one as well as I’d never set a challenge I’m not willing to do and another tip is to count rhymes before you choose your end words! I’m currently having lots of fun trying to rhyme with Earth!

  3. niteowl says:

    I don’t think the iambic pentameter is an absolute. I researched a bit before I attempted one during NaPo and it says no specific syllable count required. Source: http://www.public.asu.edu/~aarios/formsofverse/reports2000/page8.html

    That said, I’d be happy to try again, perhaps even with pentameter! 🙂

    • Niteowl says:

      Okay, here you go. Gosh, iambic pentameter is hard. I seem to naturally want to go for tetrameter (8 syllables).

      • Heather says:

        And there I’ve always thought they had to be in iambic – thanks for clearing that up Niteowl, I’ve also updated the main post 🙂

        You’ve forgotten to link your poem though – please do when you get a chance!

        I think I’ll type mine up and link it tonight.

  4. niteowl says:

    Hmm…could have sworn I linked it. Well let’s try again


  5. Heather says:

    I need to do review day before I can post it on YWS, but here it is to remind myself 😀

    Whose Pages Burn with these Attempts to Scrawl?

    Men think to run before they know to crawl,

    and kiss the forest of a dying Earth,

    whose pages burn with these attempts to scrawl


    where living life is hardest in the fall

    and autumn hands are withered from their thirst.

    Men think to run before they know to crawl.


    They cast out lines which snag before they haul,

    like plastic wrappers washed up in the surf,

    whose pages burn with these attempts to scrawl.


    But cast your line to heed the siren’s call,

    but for a moment soft, forget your girth –

    men think to run before they know to crawl.


    These men who run, they are not men at all,

    but boys who clock their shadows before birth,

    whose pages burn with their attempts to scrawl


    but only burn and not yet have the gall

    to launch a shot in incremental mirth.

    Men think to run before they know to crawl,


    but running now, who might presume to stall

    the midnight hour of a turning Earth?

    Man thinks to run before he knows to crawl,

    these pages burn with his attempts to scrawl.

    • Niteowl says:

      a) I must be nuts, because I thought I already saw this posted.

      b) You’re ambitious. You do realize you added an extra triplet, right?

      • Heather says:

        a. I posted it as a draft, which is apparently viewable?

        b. Yes! I felt like I really needed to say one more thing before ending the poem so I decided to be experimental :p

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