Paradelle Poetry Form: Release Humor Waves

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Here’s what the Paradelle poetry form is:

The paradelle, as the name suggests, is a parody of the villanelle (and formal poetry in general), created by poet laureate Billy Collins.

Despite its introduction as a joke, the form ended up being picked up by multiple writers afterward and now paradoxically joins the list of formal poems out in the wild.

So if you want to learn all about the Paradelle poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s dive in!

Paradelle Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Forms of Poetry: The Paradelle

The paradelle is a faux French form created by Billy Collins, who was appointed poet laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003.

He initially claimed the form was of French origins and that it had been around since the 11th century, before admitting that he invented it to parody the villanelle, thus the naming convention.

While the form was initially intended as a fun hoax, it ended up taking on a life of its own in writing circles and has since seen attempts by multiple writers.

Multiple reviewers were tricked by Collins’ paradelle.

It was purposely written to be terrible, tricking a number of gullible reviewers into complaining that it was “an amateurish attempt,” completely missing the point and the obvious pun in the name. (Parody-villanelle. Paradelle.)

This alone makes it a fantastic part of poetry history because it’s hilarious to imagine someone clicking angrily on their keyboard in defense of a poem that the writer invented as a joke.

Basic Properties of Paradelles

cheerful young lady writing on notepad.
Rhyme StructureOptional
Origin21st century America, Billy Collins
PopularityBrand new, rarely used
ThemeIntended as parody, originally

How Is a Paradelle Structured?

The paradelle features four stanzas of six lines each.

The first and second lines of each stanza are the same as each other until the final stanza.

The third and fourth lines also mirror each other. (Yes, really.) The fifth and sixth lines are composed of all the words from the first and third lines.

The final stanza is especially dreadful, being a jumble of the fifth and sixth lines from all preceding stanzas.

Put simply, you would actually be writing nine original lines that are each repeated and then used in word scrambles that make up half of the entire poem.

The form is quite literally designed to be as arbitrary and repetitive as possible.

Collins’ paradelle, intentionally being terrible, was designed to showcase how unnecessarily extreme rules can ruin a poem.

This naturally ended with poets adopting the form like a baby, even after finding out it was a hoax, and tending to it lovingly until some sincere attempts came out because we’re all idiots. Delightful idiots, but certainly idiots.

The paradelle thankfully has no other limitations, though.

If the form had a strict rhyme scheme and meter on top of its absurd obsession with repetition, then it might have hit a bit too close to home.

Instead, the form manages to barely be a bit more lenient than the form it parodies, at least in this regard.

Example of a Paradelle

carefree young woman sitting on a wooden river bridge with a book nearby and enjoying nature.

I do despise the constant rules.
I do despise the constant rules.
Refrains and restrictions are a pain.
Refrains and restrictions are a pain.
I do despise the constant refrains.
Rules and restrictions are a pain.

Do the lines seem redundant yet?
Do the lines seem redundant yet?
This is why I hate clunky refrains.
This is why I hate clunky refrains.
Do the refrains seem clunky yet?
This is why I hate redundant lines.

Just a few more horrid repetitions.
Just a few more horrid repetitions.
These rancid stanzas are nearly over.
These rancid stanzas are nearly over.
Just over these rancid repetitions,
are a few more horrid stanzas, nearly.

I do despise the clunky refrains.
These rules and restrictions are nearly over.
Just a few more redundant lines.
This is why I hate constant repetitions.
These rancid stanzas are a pain.
Do the refrains seem horrid yet?

In the spirit of the original, this poem is pretty awful.

Unlike the original, this one is not mistaken for a serious attempt.

This paradelle is clearly, squarely focused on drawing attention to the negative effect that too much repetition can have on the quality of a poem.

Now to be fair, there are some very, very good poems out there featuring refrains.

Even the villanelle, evil though it may clearly be, has had some time in talented hands who spun gold out of its absurd structural elements.

Nonetheless, the paradelle does bring up a good point for modern poets to consider.

When are the rules helping your poem and when are they holding it back?

This breaking point is different for each individual writer, but it is always something worth considering.

Tips for Writing a Paradelle

notebook and pen

First, seriously?

You’re seriously going to write a paradelle?

You’re going to devote a few precious moments of your life to a form purposely designed to prove its own pointlessness?

If so, congratulations.

That spirit of pettiness and trying to make things work even when they’re clearly intended not to is exactly the kind of thing writers thrive on.

The above example should have clued you in on some of the basic tricks, though you’ll need to use them more carefully and deliberately to create a genuine poem out of them.

Put simply, language is surprisingly modular in its design.

You can lift a phrase from one sentence, then put it in another one, and often it will still work if your sentences are designed as such.

Syntax is also quite malleable, if your sentences are designed as such, put simply. (I do hope you see what I did there.)

You can also swap out individual words to change meanings slightly.

The weather today is terrible. My paint is all runny and wet.
The weather today is wet. My paint is all runny and terrible.

The difference between a good paradelle and a bad paradelle, if we assume that good paradelles are real and actually do exist, would come from how complicated your shuffles are.

Can you make the lines nigh unrecognizable from the original versions?

You may need to rewrite your lines several times to add and subtract words that do and don’t work in the shuffling process.

The end result, however, could be something special.

At least in theory.

In practice, I personally like to treat the form as a joke.

I’ll leave iterating on it to those of you who are just spiteful enough to want to prove you can do it, even though no one asked you to.

Have fun.

Poet’s Note


I don’t know what tickles me more: The reviewers who fell for the obvious hoax, the form itself, or the fact that people adopted the poem afterward.

The writing community is a wonderfully weird and pointless place to be sometimes, but perhaps that’s the best thing about it.

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