Writing Exercise

by | November 6, 2013 | Writing Exercise | 12 comments

Writing Exercise – the rondeau

 By Ashley Lister

 This month I wanted to work with the rondeau. The reason why
I wanted to tackle the rondeau this month is because arguably the most famous
example of the rondeau is ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Canadian army physician, and
poet, Lieutenant John McCrae. ‘In Flanders Fields’ is a poem we hear often
during this month of remembrance and it seemed apposite to consider the
structure that supports this great work.  

The rondeau is a
form of French poetry with 15 lines and a fixed, distinctive rhyme scheme.  The rondeau also makes use of refrains, which
are repeated according to the stylized pattern.

The rhyme scheme for the rondeau is: a a b b a  a a b C  a a b b a C, where a and b are the end
rhymes and C is the refrain. 

Technically each line of the rondeau should consist of eight
syllables (except for the refrains which are half lines of four syllables).  Ideally, the poem should be laid out in three
stanzas and the refrain should be identical to the beginning of the first line.

All of which is easier to illustrate with an example.

I slash the strap across your back

And thrill to hear the brisk wet smack

When leather strikes unbroken skin

And you beg me to push deep in

To tight confines within your crack

And beg for a more forceful whack

Whilst reaching back to clutch my sac

You’re shrieking with a sated grin

I slash the strap

The pinwheel left a pretty track

The paddle’s bruises ne’er turned black

But stripes of leather suit this sin

You tell me this one’s for the win

And urge more force in my attack

I slash the strap

Fifteen lines of rhyming poetry will always be a challenge,
especially when you’re expected to find a refrain and use only two rhymes. The
main challenge is finding something to say that bears repeating. I was
fortunate here that the phrase ‘I slash the strap’ has a hypnotic rhythm and
seems to work within the context of sexual punishment.

As always, I look forward to seeing your poems in the
comments box below. 

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Nettie

    Let's try this again. All spelling and grammatical errors have been put there by an evil twin poster as I'd never make such an error m'self.

    He slid his thumb across my lips.
    I trembled, falling off that cliff
    of desire taken by surprise.
    His slow movement – torture, devised
    to pull me forward, make me trip

    into lust with him and eclipse
    what I knew of myself. He dips
    his thumb into my mouth, unwise
    as that may be, I only nipped.
    He slid his thumb

    against my tongue. I sucked. He slipped
    it out, so wet, and rubbed the tip
    of my capricious cock. Levis
    taut, I'd popped buttons from the fly.
    He grabbed my ass with a firm grip.
    He slid his thumb…

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Oh, Nettie! This is brilliant! You took me totally by surprise with "capricious cock". And the rhyme of 'eclipse' and 'dips' – unexpected and yet inevitable, as poetry should be!

  3. Nettie

    Why thank you so much for reading & commenting, Lisabet. I was surprised I could actually finish this piece.
    best wishes

  4. Ashley R Lister

    Nettie – thank you for rising to the challenge on this one. It's a restrictive format but, through enjambment and your natural talent, you've managed to work in some pretty stylish lines. solid rhyming, clever use of assonance on the second line, and (as Lisabet noted) the surprise of discovering that this is homoerotic poetry is cleverly placed in the third stanza.

    Damned good poetry.


    • Nettie

      Thank you for your kind comments, Ash. I'm back from blushing now.

  5. Lisabet Sarai

    Here's mine. Far more cerebral than Nettie's but I believe it fits the form.

    By Lisabet Sarai

    My hands are tied, but were I free
    I'd suck your cock and sip your pee;
    I'd spread my lips so you could sense
    the aromatic evidence
    of what your voice can do to me.

    My flesh and heart in heat agree.
    Unlock them both; you hold the key
    to joy and anguish, both intense.
    My hands are tied.

    You think me lost. Why can't you see?
    If you should claim the whole of me
    as yours, I'd offer no defense.
    But you're a gentleman, and hence,
    my ring makes all this fantasy.
    My hands are tied.

  6. Ashley R Lister

    That four beat refrain is so clever: the combination of the erotically physical related to the pragmatically metaphoric.

    I'm also impressed (jealous) of the way arrhythmic was you've used your caesura in the final stanza. The balance is meticulous. Quality poetry.


    • Lisabet Sarai

      What? "the arrhythmic way you've used your caesura"? Speak English, Ashley! ;^)

      But of course I'm glad you like it. As I've said before, I'm not sure I even believe this is poetry, but it's an enjoyable challenge.

  7. Rachel Green

    Breathplay Rondeau

    You hold your breath, I count to three
    and make you give it back to me
    I clamp my lips against your own
    my skin to yours, my flesh and bone
    connected to you ardently
    breathe out again despite your plea
    for air carbon dioxide free
    (though wordless, I can hear you moan)
    You hold your breath.
    The lure of this activity
    in skirting our mortality
    to bring us to a mutual zone
    hypoxic in progesterone
    my will to yours becomes the key.
    You hold your breath

  8. Rachel Green

    Nettie: Utterly awed. I am such a sucker for a good enjambment.
    Lisabet: What a delight, but so chaste at the end!

    Ashey: Marvellous. So good I almost didn't even attempt a rejoinder!

    • Ashley R Lister

      You got the words 'hypoxic' and 'progesterone' in a poem without interrupting the scansion or upsetting the flow.

      Damn but you're good. I've missed you these past couple of months. Hope everything is OK.


    • Rachel Green

      Thanks Ash 🙂
      I'm good, thanks. Not sure how or why I missed the last couple. I'm usually more diligent. I might have been on holiday, I think.

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