The Villanelle

The form of the villanelle that we know today was originally fixed by Jean Passerat. But this first instance of the fixed form would not be repeated for over three hundred years. In the interim "villanelle" was a shifty term.

Passerat's modern editor, Pierre Blanchmain, says that he rarely finds "le cri veritable de passion" (the veritable cry of passion) in Passerat's work. But of this first villanelle he remarks: "(it has) an amiable sentiment."

Ronald McFarland, in his book The Villanelle: The Evolution of a Poetic Form, notices that just when verse in form was going out of style, the villanelle became a hip thing to write.

Ezra Pound, while slamming forms, comments that the villanelle "can at its best attain the closest intensity." His only villanelle, "Villanelle: The Psychological Hour," is a three-part sectional of varying stanza lengths.

While researching I discovered that Alberto Rios is quoted in Ronald McFarland's The Villanelle: The Evolution of a Poetic Form.  He warns against over-generalizing in the refrain: "Of course, it is hard to repeat over and over a specific. I used several devices, enjambment being foremost, to make the repetition less obvious, or at least return repetition to its original intention: to change the refrain with each usage."

There used to be a band out of Chicago called Villanelle.  After the band split, three members formed a new band, Small Town Poets.  Their latest album is called Third Verse.  They play alternative Christian rock.

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