How To Write A Villanelle


Compared to the other poems I have talked about thus far, I think the Villanelle is the easiest to compose. It’s also fun, lyrical and expressive. A great poem for getting your point across.

Like the Sestina, the Villanelle is a poem that relies heavily on repetition but unlike the Sestina, it is repetition of the entire line.


1)      Length: The Villanelle is 19 lines long; however six of the lines are merely repetitions so the poet only has to come up with 13 original lines of poetry.

Each stanza consists of three lines, except for the last stanza which has four.

2)      Rhyme: The rhyme scheme is aba.

3)      Repetition: The first and third line of the poem are repeated throughout the poem. The first line becomes the last line of the second stanza, the third line become the last line of the third stanza and so on.

4)      Pattern: As above, look out for the pattern of the final lines of each stanza


1st stanza – ABC

2nd stanza – DEA

3rd stanza – FGC

4th stanza – HIA

5th stanza – JKC

6th stanza – LMAC

So, the sestina is not the easiest form to attempt but it can result in lovely reflections of what poetry can do and be.

Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is one of my favourite examples of a villanelle (I think most poets etc like to use this poem as an example of great use of the form):


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

By Dylan Thomas


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


And you, my father, there on that sad height,

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

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when writing your Villanelle:

1)      Choose a topic or theme that you are comfortable with

2)      Pick your main two lines. Make sure they pack a punch as you will be repeating them, also remember they have to rhyme. For my poem, I chose as my two lines:

‘There are voices in my head, Everyday there’s something said.’

3)      The rhyme scheme is aba, so make sure your two end words (a and b) are fairly easy to rhyme with or you will find yourself very very stuck!

Here’s mine:


The Voices In My Head

By Oyinkan Braithwaite


There are voices in my head

And they rumble like the sea

Everyday there’s something said


Sounds I’ve come to dread

Several times I’ve tried to flee

The many voices in my head


As though they were just ahead

Standing right in front of me

Everyday there’s something said


Something mentioned, something shared

Sometimes one voice, sometimes three

Of the voices in my head


When your soul is being bared

Knowing who is who is key

Everyday there’s something said.


I’d love to hear your voice instead

But they just won’t let me be

These crazy voices in my head

Everyday there’s something said.


Needless to say, the Villanelle is not my strongest form. But it is fun.

Keep writing!



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Oyinkan Braithwaite

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