Over the summer I've been inspired by the Poetry Friday poets who have written villanelles. This was a new form for me, and I have been simultaneously drawn to and intimidated by this form with its many restrictions. The Villanelle form was floating around in my creative primordial ooze all summer, but no evolution occurred until it bumped up against my desire to write a poem for my daughter's first day of school.
As expected, it was a challenging form to work with. I pretty quickly settled on the number of syllables, and the refrain lines and rhymes, but I was struggling with the second half. I was trying to work with a fixed meter (some sources I looked at said traditional villanelles are written in iambic pentameter). Finally I read over the first half of the poem and asked myself why I liked it so much better than the many lines I was throwing away. I realized that in those lines, I hadn't tried to follow a strict metric pattern, and I liked the internal rhyme that seemed to drive the momentum forward as I was reading. So I abandoned attempts to follow a strict meter or syllable counts (there's a line with an extra beat) and the rest of the poem came together quickly.
In the quatrain at the end, I reference the clave, the beat that is an essential part of Cuban music. The amazing Meg Medina explains about the importance of this beat.