How to Write a Villanelle Poem

Introduction to Structured Poetry

When I was a young writer, structured poetry didn't appeal to me. I was too busy getting the passion onto the page to stop and craft those words into a meaningful structure. But in 2011, a writing teacher introduced me to the idea of poetry structure. For six months, a group of Yarra Ranges writing students picked apart their work and put it back together again; into a range of poetry styles. I've always enjoyed rhyme, but I didn't think I'd appreciate being told how to order my lines. 

But instead of being eye-rolling bored, I felt refreshed by the content. It gave me additional ways to express my words; that, to my surprise, I found intriguing rather than tedious. Since that course, I've written poetry in a range of styles – many of them made up – but I often come back to the villanelle poem.

The villanelle is sometimes known as a villanesqe poem, and is of French origin. It is a six stanza poem of nineteen lines, divided into five tercets or three line stanzas, followed by a quatrain or four line stanza. The villanelle is built on a complex rhyming structure, that evokes a musical quality when the work is performed out loud.

Yet I've never found instructions for writing one that I could memorise and repeat, without the need to research and scuffle through notes. So I set about writing a poem, that describes how to write a villanelle poem. I've also explained the poem, line by line, in the numbered list below. If you're up for a challenge, give it a go. I hope you have as much fun as I have. 

Let me know how you go. This is a teaching tool, designed for sharing. But please ensure my name and copyright symbol are always visible. This work is free, but should always be attributed to the author.


How to Write a Villanelle Poem

Write the first line here

Write something else

Rhyme the third with 'here'


Rhyme this line with 'here'

Rhyme the next with 'else'

Write the first line here


Rhyme this line with 'here'

Rhyme the next with 'else'

Write the third line here


Rhyme this line with 'here'

Rhyme the next with 'else'

Write the first line here


Rhyme this line with 'here'

Rhyme the next with 'else'

Write the third line here


Rhyme this line with 'here'

Rhyme the next with 'else'

Write the first line here

Write the third line here.



Leanne Margaret © 2024


Ok, now it's your turn.

The following list provides a little more detail to help you to write a villanelle poem, but it's not memorable writing. The poem above is more useful and easier to remember. But the explanation below will clarify anything you're unsure of. 
  1. Write the first line, and think of lots of words that rhyme with the last word. You're going to need them.
  2. Write the second line, and think of lots of words that rhyme with that one too. 
  3. Write the third line, using your list of words that rhyme with line one. Add space.
  4. Write the fourth line, using your list of words that rhyme with line one.
  5. Write the fifth line, using your list of words that rhyme with line two.
  6. The sixth line is an exact rewrite of line one. Add space. 
  7. The seventh line rhymes with line one.
  8. The eighth line rhymes with line two.
  9. The ninth line is an exact rewrite of line three. Add space.
  10. The tenth line rhymes with line one.
  11. The eleventh line rhymes with line two.
  12. The twelfth line is an exact rewrite of line one. Add space.
  13. The thirteenth line rhymes with line one.
  14. The fourteenth line rhymes with line two.
  15. The fifteenth line is an exact rewrite of line three. Add space.
  16. The sixteenth line rhymes with line one.
  17. The seventeenth line rhymes with line two.
  18. The eighteenth line is an exact rewrite of line one. 
  19. The nineteenth line is an exact rewrite of line three.
Leanne Margaret © 2024

Other Examples

Poets do all sorts of things to make each villanelle poem express their own unique voice. So you might find lots of variations in the expression of this form of poetry. The idea is to let a structure inspire you to try new things, rather than straitjacket your creativity. 

Mad Girl's Love Song, by Sylvia Plath
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, by Dylan Thomas
One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop

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