Writing Exercise - the villanelle

Saturday, 18 July 2015

As some of you may be aware, I’m currently compiling an anthology of poetry, Coming Together: In Verse.  The call for submissions is listed here: http://ashleylisterauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/call-for-submissions-coming-together-in.html

For those of you wanting to submit, but lacking inspiration or ideas, below you’ll find one of the poetry writing exercises I’ve previously shared on the blog for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association (http://erotica-readers.blogspot.co.uk). I'm going to try and share them here on a weekly basis until we reach the deadline date.

 The villanelle is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.

This is a complex form – but it’s worth persevering.

The villanelle has been used for such memorable poems as Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Goodnight’, Theodore Roethke’s ‘The Waking’ and Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song.’ Writing a villanelle is not easy but, once you’ve accomplished it, you’re in good company.

You may do me, and I will owe you one
Or until then I shall owe one to you
This lovers’ trade is really not a con

I guarantee it will be lots of fun
For me, at least (which might be nothing new)
You may do me, and I will owe you one

We shouldn’t start a sexu’l marathon
I know we’ve both got other things to do
This lovers’ trade is really not a con

But I’d like it if you could get me done
I don’t care if you suck or if we screw
You may do me, and I will owe you one

We’d celebrate with chilled Dom Perignon
I’ve brought a demi and champagne flutes: two
This lovers’ trade is really not a con

To get me off we’ll have to get it on
My need for satisfaction’s overdue
You may do me, and I will owe you one
This lovers’ trade is really not a con

There is a formula:  A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2. Here the letters (a and b) indicate the two rhyme sounds. The use of upper case letters indicates a refrain. And the superscript numerals indicate the different use of refrain one and refrain two.

Would another example help to illustrate the form better?

You ask me if I’d like to be restrained
A1
You think our love could flourish with me bound
b
You claim you want to see me being chained
A2 


This interest in restraint is unexplained
a
And I think our relationship is sound
b
You ask me if I’d like to be restrained
A1


You say I should be physically detained
a
Or tied up like some safe/secured hound
b
You claim you want to see me being chained
A2 


I say, “Perhaps I might like being caned?”
a
Your eagerness does not get off the ground
b
You ask me if I’d like to be restrained
A1


You say my problem is that I’m untrained
a
You bring out rope next time we fool around
b
You claim you want to see me being chained
A2 


We tried it way back once and I complained
a
But with a gag I didn’t make a sound
b
You ask me if I’d like to be restrained
A1
You claim you want to see me being chained
A2 

The villanelle is a lot of fun to work with. It is a complex form but I figure those who’ve been reading these columns over the past year or so will be ready for the adventure of a greater challenge.

If you do want to submit to the current anthology, information can be found on: http://ashleylisterauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/call-for-submissions-coming-together-in.html

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