A nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five three-line stanzas (tercets) followed by a final, four-line stanza (quatrain).

The first and third lines of the first stanza rhyme with each other and are repeated throughout the poem (although they can be varied a little): the first line of the first stanza is the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, and the third line of the first stanza is the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. The two lines then form the last couplet of the final stanza.

The first and last lines of all the stanzaa rhyme with each other, and the second lines of all stanzas also rhyme with each other.

However hard anyone tries to make it sound simple, it is always a lot clearer to understand what a villanelle is by looking at one rather than looking at a description of what one is!

The most famous villanelle is probably Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas.

Trickle-Down Economics

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Give handouts to the City not the town Award the top the most, the bottom least and in the end, the wealth will trickle down So feed the finest to the howling hound The sparrow pecks the droppings of the … Read more

Villanelle: A Step or Two

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Autumn falls and storm clouds brew The post each day brings season’s chill The queue moves on a step or two The last demand is overdue It stands unopened on the sill As autumn falls and storm clouds brew They … Read more

Peacehaven Primary’s Pool

Peacehaven Heights school

– a villanelle about this. Kids needed somewhere safe to swim so locals raised funds for a pool, got sponsor forms and filled them in Again they shook donation tins to keep aquatics at the school, to keep the children … Read more

Villanelle: Joint Enterprise

Osime Brown

The courts prejudge and penalise, applying law, not playing fair, convicting of ‘joint enterprise’ Two words that catch and criminalise the skin you’re in, the clothes you wear, they prejudge and they penalise You’re guilty in the system’s eyes and … Read more

Dispensible Other


Accept our rule and stop this hue and cry Some loved ones have to go before their time It’s just the weak and sick and old who’ll die We have a theory here to justify Our nudging unit thinks it’s … Read more

Five Crosses

Level five

A villanelle about the deaths of workers at the Crossrail Bond Street site. Don’t go down to level five A killer’s prowling in the deep Stay away and stay alive Worker bees construct a hive of industry, where toxins seep … Read more

Revise the System


Work hard, be conscientious, be afraid Your life won’t be worth living if you fail The only thing that matters is your grade Feel guilty for each error you have made Learn quotes by rote and don’t stop to exhale … Read more

Eyes on the Prize


The Pfizer guys are haggling with the NICE And while they talk, the cancer spreads again You’ll get your pills when they’ve agreed a price You’ll get your answer when they’ve rolled their dice And dealt your hand out in … Read more

The Coral’s Grief


The warming of oceans by greenhouse gases emitted by human activity has caused large-scale death of coral reefs. A hat tip to Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Dark Night’, as I nicked his villanelle refrain. Do not … Read more

21 October 1966

A villanelle about the Aberfan coal mining disaster, in which 144 people, including 116 school children, died when a coal mining waste tip collapsed. There was a lot of anger at the National Coal Board for its neglect of safety, … Read more

We Are Not Heroes

We are not heroes, not the valiant sort We let them take us, fell in to survive The heroes are the ones who stood and fought Our bodies packed together frail support The nudging of her foot kept me alive … Read more


The life expectancy of a Black trans woman in the USA is just 35. This is a villanelle about that shocking statistic. Black boys grown women fighting to survive In freedom’s land are some folks not allowed To live beyond … Read more

Villanelle to the Villanelle

For those with powerful poignant tale to tell Outsiders seeking structure so sublime A strong expressive form is villanelle Its lines repeat like sounding of a bell Each tercet ends with alternating chime For those with powerful poignant tale to … Read more

Villanelle: Terminal 420


When I visited the Port of Antwerp in October 2014 with the ETF Women’s Committee, we were due to go to a particular terminal – but it was closed, after a seafarer was killed while a ship was being loaded … Read more

Villanelle: No Autistics Here

This story is about residents objecting to a care home for autistic adults in their street. I wanted to write a poem expressing my upset that people could take a stance like this, and finally settled on a poetic form called the Villanelle: … Read more