The crack is moving down the wall.
Defective plaster isn’t all the cause.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

It’s mildly cheering to recall
That every building has its little flaws.
The crack is moving down the wall.

Here in the kitchen, drinking gin,
We can accept the damndest laws.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

And though there’s no one here at all,
One searches every room because
The crack is moving down the wall.

Repairs? But how can one begin?
The lease has warnings buried in each clause.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

These nights one hears a creaking in the hall,
The sort of thing that gives one pause.
The crack is moving down the wall.
We must remain until the roof falls in.

Weldon Keys

I stumbled upon the villanelle form in my book Staying Alive for my summer poetry class. My class is mainly poetry appreciation intended to inspire poetry of my own. I quite like Weldon Keys “Villanelle.” Sometimes cracks are visible, and for whatever reason, we often seem to wait for the roof to crash. As for my own poems, I have my work cut out for me, nothing ready to share.

The villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets (three-line stanzas) and ending with a quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the opening tercet recur alternately at the ends of the other tercets and with both repeated at the end of the closing quatrain. Some of the tercets above might look a wee bit, um, janky (with a fourth line) via phone. On my laptop, they come across as intended. 

Probably the most famous villanelle is Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Who knew that this one is a villanelle? I did not. You are welcome.

If you have a minute and a half, here is Thomas reciting his poem in 1952, a year before his untimely death at age 39. For Dylan’s text, click here.

Staying Alive, ed Neil Astley, Miramax Books, 2003.


50 thoughts on “Villanelle

  1. I like the poem a lot. Although it’s quite, what’s the right word, not despondent but along those lines. It’s kinda sad… but I like it.

    Good luck writing! I don’t understand the different style poetry and think that those who can write are cool…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your writing already is wonderfully evocative, Crystal, and it aspires to the ethereal. Experiencing it is transformative, as it moves the reader in an instant from seeing things through his/her own eyes, to viewing them through your own.

    What an extraordinary endeavor, then, to take that achievement, then to refine it, yet again, through poetry’s many rules and conventions. Similar, I would think, to painting a masterpiece, then to resolving to weave it into a tapestry.

    Indeed, poetry’s many customs and formulas strike me as being almost, shall we say, scientific, Fill chalkboards with your equations, Crystal! Like engineers’ labors, yours seek the eternal. Though, unlike their murmurings, yours have warmth and soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Crystal, I appreciate your sharing of the poetic form of Villanelle. I have never tried writing poetry in this style, but never say never. I enjoyed Dylan Thomas’ poem. Take care down there in Texas.

    Liked by 2 people

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