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To Villanelle or Not to Villanelle?: Prompt

This week's prompt gives you a few choices, so it can be done by poets, prose writers, and visual artists of any kind!

You can write a traditional villanelle, and I have posted some incredible villanelles on this blog this month, including today's poem by Robin Becker.

You can write or create a piece of visual art based on the photograph below. It is a photo I took last November in Williams, Arizona. You can also write a villanelle inspired by this photo.

You can also break the traditional villanelle form in some way--maybe have the first words of each line rhyme, or use slant rhyme, or only repeat certain lines, or don't repeat your lines exactly, or mesh the villanelle with a sonnet somehow.

Basic directions for a villanelle are as follows:


5 tercets (3 line stanzas)

1 quatrain as the last stanza (4 line stanza)

rhyme scheme:



line 1 in stanza 1 is line 3 in both the 2nd and the 4th stanzas

line 3 in stanza 1 is line 3 in both the 3rd and the 5th stanzas


the 2 repeated lines must be the last 2 lines of the final quatrain

line 1 of the quatrain rhymes with the repeated lines

line 2 of the quatrain rhymes with the 2nd line of every other stanza

Honestly, when I write in this form (and a few others that are also as complex), I keep directions and a sample poem in view. This is not an easy form to follow exactly, although without a rule about meter or syllabics, a lot of folks are fooled into thinking it is.

You must have 6 rhymed words (line 2 in every stanza), and they should be strong words. The repeated lines, even if you change them slightly, must do a lot of heavy lifting in this poem--they must be meaningful, not dull, and powerful enough to end the poem.

I say this not to dissuade anyone from trying a villanelle, but to encourage you to not give up if it is tougher than you thought it would be. Hang in there, read a few more (Elizabeth Bishop's One Art is one of the best, and can be found here), as well as the others posted here, and keep trying! Once you write a villanelle, the sense of satisfaction is wonderful!

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