Combine Meter With Content

The villanelle works best using a four-foot or five-foot line. (Trimeter starts to call attention to the pattern instead of the poem's content because of shorter line lengths.)

Serious villanelles usually employ iambs or a combination of iambs and trochees. Lighter ones use more anapests for a tripping meter or dactyls for a haunting, childlike or marching meter.

Before you pick a meter for your poem, be sure to align it with content. The villanelle is an ideal form to express a nagging or recurring thought or idea. You might use anapestic pentameter, say, for a light verse villanelle about rejection slips or dactyllic tetrameter for a villanelle about marching to the mailbox awaiting a manuscript. Or iambic pentameter for a villanelle about the struggle to fulfill your dreams as an artist, questioning your sacrifices in the recurring lines.

If you need to brush up on the basics of prosody, review the "Meter Primer" in chapter six.

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