How hard is it to write a Villanelle?

My writing life

Well, it’s not easy! My role models are Dylan Thomas and Mimi Khalvati, and they are both hard acts to follow! However this week, for the first time ever, I had a go. I was inspired by the fact that two weeks ago I took a very rough poem to my writing group, partly because I wasn’t sure what to do with it next. At the group one of the other members had written a villanelle, a very good one. The group discussed in some detail how it had been composed and I went home thinking that I would give one a try. One of the ideas that emerged clearly from the discussion was that the first thing you have to do is find two lines that bear repetition. This is not easy. So back to Mimi and Dylan to look at form; five stanzas of three lines and one of four with a complex pattern of repeated lines and a very distinct rhythm.

First I mapped out the form marking the places where the repetition should take place and then I pondered long and hard, using my original half-baked poem, to find the lines and refine them. That done I typed out the two lines in al the right places and filled in the spaces. Oddly enough once I had the repeated lines on the screen, the rest kind of fell into place. (How did Dylan do it when he didn’t have a computer?) I just got carried along. I took the result to the writing group yesterday and they liked it. Tomorrow I’ll take it to the poetry group in Kendal. I’ll let you know how it gets on.

Reading week

At the recommendation of a friend who came to stay last week I am reading the John le Carre 1968 novel A Small town in Germany. It is not easy to get into, but now I am hooked by his languid prose and the subliminal hints at the sinister and unspoken threats.  The endless gentle conversations slowly reveal a terrible situation. If you’ve not read it, it’s worth a go.

 Hare in the Headlights

There are few things as terrifying as going on a four day poetry course as I am doing next week! What if I can’t think of anything to write? What if it is four days of blank paper? Help! I’ll report back next time.


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