Call for collaborators:

Villanelle Vestiges

an interwoven chain of villanelles

Jun 19, 2017 · 3 min read

Tamyka has been hanging out for this project for a while, because the villanelle is one of her favourite poetic forms. (Others include the acrostic golden shovel, the abhanga, and the fib poem.)

Photo by Lum3n (Pexels)

The goal of this project is to borrow two lines from someone else’s villanelle, and use them as the refrains in your own. This project is super simple…except maybe for the part where you write a villanelle. But trust us — it’s easier than a sestina!

About the villanelle

A villanelle has nineteen lines, organised into five tercets and a quatrain, with two repeating rhyme sounds (aba). But eight of those lines are taken up with one of two refrains, (A1, A2); once they’re written, you just need to come up with another five a-lines (that rhyme with A1 and A2) and six b-lines (their own rhyme). There is no set line length, but 8–10 syllables is a fairly common choice.

The form is well suited to haunting ideas, because the poem tends to get stuck on those two refrains. If you want to spice up your villanelle, try using small variations in tense or punctuation, or use enjambment to keep the stanzas flowing. (~Tamyka)

How to play

  1. Select any villanelle that’s published on Medium. We strongly suggest you check out one of our favourite poetry publications: Poetry in Form. You’ll also find lovely examples by searching for the tag villanelle, or by browsing right here in this project!
  2. From your chosen poem, select two rhyming non-refrain lines (a-lines or b-lines) to use as your refrains (A1- and A2-lines). Remember, you’ll need to link these two lines together in the final stanza, so choose carefully!
  3. Write your villanelle. To make it easier, Tamyka made you a handy colour-coded template! It doesn’t auto-populate, though, because we understand that you might like to make small changes within a line. (You might change tense, make something plural, or change punctuation.)
  4. Format your Medium story for submission. Starting at the top:
    - give it a title
    - subtitle it villanelle after [@original poet]
    - add an image
    - give the image an appropriate attribution with a link to a webpage clearly showing the image licence information, like our example in this post
    - single-space your poem within each stanza, and use a paragraph break between stanzas
    - add a section break, then this footer — This poem is part of the Villanelle Vestiges project on Chalkboard. I borrowed the refrains from this villanelle:
    [embed URL]

    - add tags, including Villanelle and Villanelle Vestiges
  5. Submit your draft villanelle to Chalkboard.
  6. Find another poem to work with!

If any of that isn’t clear, take a look at these samples, or respond to ask us a question:


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The home of asynchronous collaboration. Write with us!

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