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Poetry for a Fallen Friend - a Villanelle

Updated on September 28, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

The Man who once stood tall with the author during childhood.
The Man who once stood tall with the author during childhood. | Source

Can’t read the poem on the wall
The words reach too deep and leaves me raw,
for it was about a man who once stood tall.

It reminds me of that call
Just days after him I last saw.
Can’t read the poem on the wall.

I penned that poem without stall
and left the mourners in awe,
for it was about a man who once stood tall.

Years have passed and the pain’s never small
Even though this is life’s law.
Can’t read the poem on the wall.

Memories don’t fall.
And those words grasp him in my mind’s claw,
for it was about a man who once stood tall.

In those words I install,
a sacred picture they draw.
Can’t read the poem on the wall,
for it was about a man who once stood tall.

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What is a Villanelle?

A Villanelle is a lyrical poem with some complex rules that incorporate rhymes and repetition in an alternating structure. It consists of:

• 19 lines

• two rhymes in six stanzas

• 1st and 3rd lines of the first tercet (three-lined stanza)reoccur and alternate through the rest of the poem.

• Five of the six stanzas are tercet. The last is a quatrain (four-lines)

• The Quatrains will contain the both repetition of the 1st and 3rd line of the poem.

It is a French-form poem that has been widely adapted by English writers. The verses are often described as "pastoral"; however, it has evolved to cover other subjects.

Possibly the most famous is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."


Dolphin in the Surf (the poem)
Dolphin in the Surf (the poem) | Source

Story Behind the poem

This poem is about a poem that was about a close, childhood friend who passed away in 2005. I had been asked to write something for his memorial service. The result was the elegy "Dolphin in the Surf".

His sisters and nieces made the final decorative touches to it. The poem was printed, placed on a poster board and adorned with two pictures from our youth.

Since that dark day in May, I've kept the poem in my classroom. I've had students and teachers standing before it, reading it, and contemplating what it had to say. In a sense, the poem took on a life of its own.

To this day, the poem is still posted, and the reactions from curious readers is often the same. Sadness, grief, and a lot of deep thoughts are evident in the small audience that reads it.

© 2014 Dean Traylor

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A touching tribute to a friend in villanelle. I am off to read the original poem now.

    • Jonas Rodrigo profile image

      Jonas Rodrigo 22 months ago

      I'm sure your friend was a great person. You are a great friend too, Dean.

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