Friday, February 06, 2015

Poetry Friday - Poetry Seven Write Villanelles

When the Poetry Seven decided to embark on a year of writing a poem a month together, I was hoping we'd start with an "easy" form. Alas, it was not to be. We jumped into writing a villanelle, a French verse form consisting of 19 lines with five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain. In this form the first and third lines of the first stanza repeat in the third line of alternating stanzas. In addition to form, we decided to write on the theme of things dormant or hidden.

It seems fitting that in writing a villanelle I have chosen to write about a French chateau, one that is revealing its hidden history in bits and pieces. You can read about the restoration project that inspired me at Chateau de Gudanes. You can also get updates and see new images on the Chateau's Facebook page.
Chateau de Gudanes

Stone giant asleep on a hilltop plateau
weathered, alone but with secrets to share
once vibrant, now silent, an old French chateau

Throw open the doors, shout “Bonjour or Hello!”
tread lightly through hallways and onto the stair
of this giant asleep on a hilltop plateau

From the balcony survey the grounds dressed with snow
close your eyes, take deep breaths as you plan and prepare
to awaken the silent, once vibrant chateau

Crack plaster, pull timbers, find frescos below
search piles of rubble for treasures to spare
in this giant asleep on a hilltop plateau

Voltaire, Diderot and the likes of Rousseau
were greeted by footman and all who were there
in the once vibrant, now silent, old French chateau

Celebrate her revival with wine and gateau
grand labor of love and of endless repair
stone giant once sleeping upon a plateau
recalled back to life, this resplendent chateau

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass. Happy poetry Friday friends!


  1. Trisha, this poem is so exciting to me because it builds suspense for the long work of rebuilding and repairing that old stone giant. I want to hear the rest of the story! You've done a brilliant job with this form!

  2. It's just so BEAUTIFUL - I look at it and it doesn't look like a sleeping giant, but I just thought it was so cool to read all about it - I can see why you're inspired! "Grand labor of love and of endless repair," indeed.

  3. I think our first Poetry Sisters retreat should be in that chateau. Imagine its walls echoing with poetry! I love how your built this poem, line by line, Tricia. Excellent work.

  4. I love how you wrote a villa-nelle (a chateau being the equivalent of a villa, yes?) What a beautiful image to accompany the imagery in your poem. And I second Sara's call for a retreat there!

    1. *Snort*
      villa - nelle

      I third the call for a retreat.

  5. I love the fourth stanza and the active verbs--crack the plaster, pull the timbers, find frescoes. This is what your poem seems to be doing for the chateau.

  6. Ha! You were hoping we'd start with an easy form ;)
    I think you're forgetting that you were what inspired us to take this year-long project on!!!
    What you did here is so awesome, Tricia. I really love it and love the changes you made -- it feels as it should be. I love the active commands especially. It really feels like it should be read aloud, maybe more than any of ours. Good job, pal!

  7. I love this, Tricia. My fav line at the moment is "search piles of rubble for treasures to spare." I think because that feels like the perfect definition of poetry! Also, I love the formal, steady cadence of your villanelle, because it fits this beautiful old building so perfectly. What a lovely job you've done. I'm glad we're writing together all year!

  8. I've seen some of the photos and videos of this restoration (maybe even shared by you?), and that made this poem really come to life. Big challenge you gave yourself, rhyming with chateau!

  9. The beauty of your villanelle has left me speechless. You've crafted your own "resplendent chateau"!

  10. So good! I have written a villanelle (not nearly as good as yours), and I know it is really hard to do!

  11. I lie. It was a pantoum I wrote. But anyway. :-)

    1. Ruth,
      This is only the second villanelle I've written. Like the pantoum, I think repeating forms are hard. I tried several different topics before I found one that worked. I made it harder because I decided I had to use chateau as an end word and didn't realize it would be so limiting in terms of rhyming words.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Love it, Trish, and it reminded me how HARD writing villanelles are. You were smart to use French rhyme words as often as you could! Here;'d my weak and silly attempt: (And I would love to go on a poetry retreat!!!)

    The Cow Who Jumped: A Silly Villenelle

    See her leaping into the sky
    That intrepid Jersey cow.
    Do not ask her how or why.

    Betelguese she passes by,
    Comets knock her BAM! And POW!
    As she’s leaping in the sky.

    I did not know bovines could fly,
    Is this a thing airlines allow?
    Do they ask her how or why?

    No good friends, I do not lie,
    That flying creature is a cow,
    Check those udders in the sky.

    Udderly amazing, why
    An airplane should be so endowed.
    But never ask the how or why.

    The question we must ask her now
    That Bossie’s in the blue so high:
    Can she slow or will she plough
    Into the ground, unhappy cow.

    ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    1. Jane, when I win the lottery, how about you lead that retreat?!

      And I love this silly little poem.

  13. Tres magnifique, Tricia! For me, the French subject matter and the scattered French words really enhanced the villanelle form. Such a lovely dance with its interwoven riches-to-rags-to-riches story.