Sing, Sing: How to Write a Rondelet
Sing out loud and strong. Sing of good and happy things. Sing a rondelet.
I was introduced to this form in How to Write a Form Poem, in the section on the rondeau. It’s a form that began as a type of song popular in medieval France. I wrote one in The Joy of Poetry that riffs on John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.
The rondelet is a variation of the rondeau. It’s a seven-line poem with a specific pattern of rhyme and repetition, including a refrain. The refrain has four syllables, and the other lines have eight.
Line 1: refrain A
Line 2: rhyme b
Line 3: refrain A
Line 4: rhyme a
Line 5: rhyme b
Line 6: rhyme b
Line 7: refrain A
Here’s a rondelet that has the title as line 1.
Is just seven verses rhymed on two.
Is an old jewel quaintly set
In poesy—a drop of dew
Caught in a roseleaf. Lo! For you,
—Charles Henry Luders
In Rainbow Crow’s notes section about Form & Free Verse, I describe form as a fence. In “Natural Selection,” I clearly cut a hole in the rondelet fence.
One white, one turquoise
Careful how you tread
One, a parrot, speaking with joy
One, a crow, your peace to destroy
Choose wisely now
Let’s compare my rondelet to a proper rondelet.
Although the b-lines rhyme (turquoise, joy, destroy), the a-lines do not. Because this poem is retelling a parable, I used those a-lines to focus on the important details of the story. I also did not follow the rules on syllables. Lines 5 and 6 both have the required eight syllables, and lines 2, 4, and 7 each have four or five.
To be honest, this poem is barely a rondelet. But what it shares with the form is its songlike structure. Think of it as a story written as a song with three parts: a chorus, a verse, and a bridge:
Line 1: chorus
Line 2: verse 1
Line 3: chorus
Line 4: verse 2
Line 5: bridge 1
Line 6: bridge 2
Line 7: chorus
The Pueblo parable, from which this poem arises, warns us to be careful what we choose. Do we prefer the plain, white egg, that yields a parrot, full of song? Or do we pick the turquoise egg and get a feisty crow? Surely a cautionary tale is worth singing out loud and strong.
Today you are a songwriter! If the A’s and B’s of the rondelet seem confusing, try writing your poem using the chorus-verse-bridge method. Find a simple refrain that sticks in your head and begin.
Browse more children’s poetry
“Megan Willome has captured the essence of crow in this delightful children’s collection. Not only do the poems introduce the reader to the unusual habits and nature of this bird, but also different forms of poetry as well.”
—Michelle Ortega, poet and children’s speech pathologist
- By Heart: ‘The night is darkening round me’ by Emily Brontë - December 2, 2022
- 50 States of Generosity: Alaska - November 18, 2022
- Children’s Book Club: ‘Queen Elizabeth II: A Little Golden Book Biography’ - November 11, 2022