Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Collaboratibe Villanelles

Below is a group exercise for writing in the villanelle form. The villanelle form originated with French poet Jean Passerat's 16th C poem called "Villanelle." The structure isn't too complicated, which makes this is a great formal exercise to introduce to students. 

Follow up forms: triolet, rondeau, sestina

Villanelle—Group Exercise

Step 1:
Get into groups of three. Each student should take out a loose sheet of paper and write a single line on that sheet. Then pass to the next student and the next until there is a three-line poem. The second student doesn’t have to rhyme his or her line, but the third does, so that there is an aba rhyme pattern. When you are finished, each of you will have the first stanza of a villanelle from which to build.

Step 2:
As a group you should decide on which tercet to use to create a single villanelle. BUT you must use enjambment, slant rhyme, and internal rhyme. The rhyme scheme is aba. The structure is:
line 1 - a - 1st refrain
line 2 - b
line 3 - a - 2nd refrain

line 4 - a
line 5 - b
line 6 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)

line 7 - a
line 8 - b
line 9 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

line 10 - a
line 11 - b
line 12 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)

line 13 - a
line 14 - b
line 15 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

line 16 - a
line 17 - b
line 18 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)
line 19 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

Step 3: Villanelles are traditionally written in pentameter or tetrameter. As a group, scan the lines of your poem and identify the type of meter in your poem.

Step 4: Take at least one risk in this poem. Go back and change a line or part of a line so that it deviates from the original villanelle form. In Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” we see her changing the refrain now and then, and only keeping the end-rhyme. We also see her use parentheses, twice, to which also fractures the strict villanelle form.

Step 5: Present the poem to the class.  Identify the meter and the risk(s) your group took. Talk a bit about how your group constructed the poem and the difficulties of writing in this form.

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