Friday, January 4, 2013

I Understand - a Villanelle

Photo by Honour V.

Click on the arrow to hear me read this poem to you.

Students - I have set myself a Poetry New Year's Resolution!  I'll be writing a poem every day of this year, and I will share some of them here.  This will give me an opportunity to explore many different forms and deepen my skill as a writer.  Sometimes we all get into ruts, and I do that with sound.  I like and often write in certain meters, so experimenting with new ones will help me grow.

Do you have a New Year's Resolution for writing?  It's not too late!

Today's poem is a villanelle, a form you may remember from V is for Vulture of my Dictionary Hike last April.  This is quite a complicated form, 19 lines with 5 tercets and 1 quatrain.  You'll notice that there are two repeating lines, and they repeat in a very particular order.  There are only 2 ending rhymes, and those, too, are in special places.  You can see exactly how this whole form works at or at the Poetry and Prose Writers' Blog.  There are many other places to look as well, but these two helped me yesterday.

Villanelles do not have a particular meter, but I chose to write in imabic pentameter (daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM).  Next time I'll try something different, but since I wrote a sonnet on Monday, I was in the groove of that meter!

Below you can see the beginning drafting work of today's villanelle.  I followed the advice I read and began with a theme - becoming different animals and understanding all creatures, a theme I return to often.  Then I wrote out the form to help me, like a skeleton.

When I awoke this morning, after this post had been up for 5 hours, I read today's offering at The Writer's Almanac, also about the connection of creatures.  Today's poem at The Writer's Almanac is "The Fish" by Billy Collins.

I took these process photos at a ski lodge while writing during my children's ski club afternoon.  You can see how I left blanks for needed lines and how I wrote dots and letters to help me know which lines and rhymes were needed where.

Notebook and Paper with Villanelle Draft
Photo by Amy LV

Computer Villanelle Draft
Photo by Amy LV

If you would like to read lots and lots of villanelles (I just might), here is a whole book about them.

Thank you to Matt Forrest Esenwine over at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme for hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup, the first of this new beautiful year.  Be sure to stop by and celebrate 2013 with poems!

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
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  1. Oh, I love villanelles! Well done. Thanks for sharing, Amy. (I love iambic pentameter, too. I'm such a nerd.)

    Happy Poetic New Year - :0)

  2. Beautiful, Amy, & more serious as I re-read. I like the way the rhythm pushes at the content, as if you're telling us something really important. Thank you!

  3. Amy,
    What a beautiful villanelle. I love the part about being the meal and eating the meal, it depends on your design. I think I might want to read a whole book of villanelles, and I've become a real fan of iams in recent years.
    Happy New Year!

  4. So well done as usual, not only technically, but in getting at a gentle truth. All the best in your poem-a-day resolve!

    Violet N.

  5. I don't know what to say first -- wow about your villanelle, your resolution, or that book! And I love the photos of your drafts. :-)

  6. Oh, how I envy your ability to unravel the tangle of the villanelle. Just thinking about the pattern gives me a headache! Have a great year, Amy!

  7. So. Another PaD year for you, eh? But not the pressure of putting each one on the blog. Brilliant. I am doing PaD for January with Kat Apel and her (mostly) Aussie crowd. We post on a password-protected blog so the poems aren't "published." We'll just have to see if I can keep the momentum once school starts...

    Write On, Sistah! Write on!

  8. Love the poem....and the repeating line. And good for you that you already had a poem project in mind. I have notebooks to share! Just getting over the flu, but I'll be in touch with you.

  9. Love the villanelle and the essence of the poem.

    Empathy is often called the highest form of moral development. We need more empathy in this world.
    Janet F.

  10. Hello! As someone needing this for an assignment who forgot her book, thank you so much! :D