Kyrielle Kyrielle Kyrielle

08 May

8:23 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello, everyone. Every now and then, I feel the need to explain why I go through a form when we already have several sites that take us through forms. Recall how you felt the first time you were asked to tackle a difficult form. If you are like me, you spent a lot of time telling yourself you could not do it, before dragging your brain kicking and screaming through the process. The next time you had an opportunity to write in whatever the form is, you knew you could do it, and you spent your time writing a better poem.

That’s right, this week I’m either the means of you kicking and screaming, or writing a better poem in some form. Today we are writing kyrielles.

For those who used to attend church services back when it was in Latin, do you remember the Kyrie? I do, because I always thought it such a lovely word, especially in the phrase ‘kyrie eleison’ which repeated as a refrain: Lord, have mercy.

The main points to keep in mind when you write your kyrielle is to have a refrain, a word, a phrase, a line, that appears in each stanza, usually as, or in, the last line and each stanza is a quatrain [four lines].

That is pretty much it, as far as musts: quatrains and a refrain. The stanzas are usually quatrains with rhyming couplets, eight to ten syllables per line, but as I am not good at rhyming that option went out the door as soon as I saw it [maybe one day]. If you like to rhyme, have at it. The syllables can be interpreted as, each line needs to be the same length. If it reads well, don’t worry about the count. I’m going to let the rebel part of me surface [this happens when I have a wretched cold and my defenses are down] and say that if you want the refrain added to the end of each quatrain [i.e. a fifth line] rather than being the final line of the second couplet in each stanza, go for it.

If you are not feeling particularly inspired, wander back through your work looking for a quatrain to start you off, or for a word, phrase, or line to use as the refrain.

In the example, note that Payne said ‘Enh!’ to the syllable count and went with what reads well.

KYRIELLE/John Payne (1842-1916)

A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,
A bee that drowns in the flower-cup’s wine,
A fly in sunshine,–such is the man.
All things must end, as all began.

A little pain, a little pleasure,
A little heaping up of treasure;
Then no more gazing upon the sun.
All things must end that have begun.

Where is the time for hope or doubt?
A puff of the wind, and life is out;
A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.
All things must end that have begun.

Golden morning and purple night,
Life that fails with the failing light;
Death is the only deathless one.
All things must end that have begun.

Ending waits on the brief beginning;
Is the prize worth the stress of winning?
E’en in the dawning day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

Weary waiting and weary striving,
Glad out setting and sad arriving;
What is it worth when the goal is won?
All things must end that have begun.

Speedily fades the morning glitter;
Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.
Two are parted from what was one.
All things must end that have begun.

Toil and pain and the evening rest;
Joy is weary and sleep is best;
Fair and softly the day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

Write a traditional kyrielle, or your own adaptation. I have seen, floating around, a kyrielle sonnet: three quatrains and a finishing couplet. Don’t be afraid to play. You can’t break it. When you have something, post and return during the week to read others. I am looking forward to reading what you come up with.

I will see you Thursday for whatever Thursday produces; Friday for the week’s roundup; and next Tuesday when we might start looking at self.

Happy writing, all. Excuse me while I crawl away and die.


Posted by on 08/05/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

57 responses to “Kyrielle Kyrielle Kyrielle

  1. Misky

    08/05/2012 at 9:11 am

    What a couragous trooper. Now go pop a few tablets. 😀

    • margo roby

      08/05/2012 at 10:55 am

      Thank you, Misky. I am popping 🙂

  2. vivinfrance

    08/05/2012 at 10:46 am

    There you go again, Margo: propagating the erroneous idea that rhythmic poetry can be produced simply by counting syllables! The original Kyrielles were written in iambic tetrameter,

    Yes I know the top Google searches bring up syllable-counting sites, but the definitive one for form poetry for me is here: I’ve been working my way through it for years now, and it’s never let me down.

    I’ve written quite a few Kyrielles in my time, but am unable to find them on either computer, so I’ll just have to do another one!

    • margo roby

      08/05/2012 at 10:54 am

      Oy. Did I, or did I not, say that the syllables are not as important as other stuff, that rhythm is more important and then give an example where the writer did not count his syllables?! When I mentioned the syllables, I said eight to ten roughly, just so people have an idea. I see no propagating going on.

      I said: ‘The syllables can be interpreted as, each line needs to be the same length. If it reads well, don’t worry about the count.’

  3. vivinfrance

    08/05/2012 at 11:10 am

    I’m not disputing what you said, Margo, but why count syllables at all? In a stressed language such as English, it is the stresses or feet which bring a musical rhythm to a poem.
    Here is my poem on the subject of sonnet metre. For the Kyrielle, which is tetrameter, it needs to be di da, di da, di da, di da.

    To write a poem only counting syllables
    is, to the metre, murder most despicable.

    Iambic rhythm has a special flow
    without it every sonnet lacks the glow

    of music to the soul and makes me sigh,
    frustrated, gaze in anguish at the sky.

    De da, de da, de da, de da, de da
    is how you’re meant to write—it’s not so hard.

    You’re free to break the rule by just a little
    but you forget the rhythm at your peril.

    Think Wand’ring lonely as a big white cloud
    Go on then, say it, read it out aloud.

    Think Curfew tolls the knell of parting day
    to send those lumpy rhythms on their way.

    Sorry to be disputing with my favourite guru, Margo, but syllable-counting is your red rag to my bull!

    • margo roby

      08/05/2012 at 11:45 am

      ‘why count syllables at all?’ Because I’m just the vehicle? I report what I find. I am not good at metre, stresses, or syllables. If my research says something is part of a form I figure I need to say so. I certainly don’t feel I can leave out what is generally considered part of a form, whether, or not, I agree with it. But you’ve been reading me long enough to know that my mantra is, everything goes out the window if it doesn’t work for the poem.

      I get cranky when I have a cold.

      • vivinfrance

        08/05/2012 at 12:04 pm

        I think it’s me that is cranky, but I’m sorry you’re feeling poorly and wish I had kept my big mouth shut!

        • margo roby

          08/05/2012 at 12:14 pm

          No, no. Don’t keep your mouth shut, ViV. How else do we learn? I just don’t normally sound quite so defensive. Part of it is that I am not good with metre and stress. It helps me, sometimes, to have a general guideline wrapped around a syllable count, which I can then ignore. My ear is getting better and I have learned so much from you and Joseph. Do not keep your mouth shut. Okay?

          Good. The drugs must be working. I sound more like myself.

    • cloudfactor5

      08/05/2012 at 12:04 pm

      Love this Viv !!

  4. Misky

    08/05/2012 at 12:42 pm

    Here’s mine.

    Margo, hope you’re feeling better soon.

  5. whimsygizmo

    08/05/2012 at 1:56 pm

    Wrote one of these in April, and would love to loan you a giggle, if you’ve got a sec:
    (And back soon to tackle a new one.)

  6. Joseph Harker

    08/05/2012 at 2:56 pm

    Ugh. Kyrielles. >_< Here you go: I warped it and flipped it as much as I could manage! Botany, Shmotany

    Regarding syllables: the trouble probably arises from French not being stressed, as Viv said. Also, being a troubadour form, these would have been originally sung, not just read. Changing language and format makes choosing a particular meter as important as/more important than just the count; but the counter to that is, English doesn’t have the “tradition” of one meter or another (let alone one syllable count or another) for the form.

    This is how we end up with things like “o’er” and “i’th'”. Just put both the damn syllables in, I say. As long as it improves the poem and doesn’t destroy the feel of the form too much, go for it once in a while (not too often: an iambic line should not become anapestic).

    • whimsygizmo

      08/05/2012 at 3:02 pm

      And here we go…
      **de’s head explodes**

      • margo roby

        08/05/2012 at 5:55 pm

        I love it when your head explodes, de!

        • whimsygizmo

          08/05/2012 at 6:52 pm

          Happy to please, Margo. Especially since it sounds like you’re not feeling well. Hey, if a little brains on the wall is all it takes to make you smile a little, so be it. 😉

    • margo roby

      08/05/2012 at 5:54 pm

      I say so too, always have. Why is everyone attacking me today? Okay, attack might be too strong. You’re expressing an opinion. I guess I just want acknowledgment that I have always said the poem is paramount. I may never do another form.

      • Joseph Harker

        08/05/2012 at 11:42 pm

        I didn’t say you didn’t! I thought we were agreeing. 🙂

        I’m not feeling so hot myself, so we must be cross-grumpinating.

        • margo roby

          09/05/2012 at 7:33 am

          How lovely to have friends with whom to cross-grumpinate [it is a gorgeous word, Joseph]. I’m not sure I could have had my little spat with anyone else and been as gently led through it. We must all be feeling the fallout from post poem-a-day and weird weather.

        • markwindham

          09/05/2012 at 9:00 am

          I am going to be adopting ‘cross-grumpinating’ into my vocab as well. Perfect for many family (and work) situations.

          • margo roby

            09/05/2012 at 10:01 am

            And we can have plain old grumpinate without any crossing involved, when one is feeling thoroughly dissatisfied with self!

    • vivinfrance

      09/05/2012 at 12:38 pm

      As Margo says, Joseph, even the occasional anapest or amphybrach can be permissible if the overall rhythm is intact. I once wrote a sonnet in (mostly) iambic octameter.

  7. markwindham

    08/05/2012 at 4:26 pm

    eh, a work in progress. But aren’t they all.

  8. wordsandthoughtspjs

    08/05/2012 at 8:10 pm

    Hi Margo, well this is quite the chain of conversation on this thread. I am sorry you are feeling badly. I hope you feel better real soon.


    • margo roby

      09/05/2012 at 7:35 am

      It is, isn’t it, Pamela. I can’t think of another group with whom I would feel safer having an edgy[?] conversation.


  9. julespaige

    09/05/2012 at 9:16 am

    With encouragement from the ‘Cranky Guru’…I offer the ‘dark side’ of the Kyrielle…

    Be back to read after food and chores – Feel better Margo!

    • margo roby

      09/05/2012 at 10:02 am

      Hee hee, Jules. You all have jollied me out of the cranks. Now just a few grumps to put away 🙂

  10. K. McGee

    09/05/2012 at 10:57 am

    • margo roby

      09/05/2012 at 11:22 am

      Uh oh. I shall head over to read.

  11. b_y

    09/05/2012 at 11:54 am

    I’m still struggling to find something worth repeating a couple or three times. When I find the right topic, I want to try that kyrielle sonnet. This is one I wrote a while ago, not a good kyrielle, but one of my favorite poems. Can’t explain why.

    • margo roby

      09/05/2012 at 3:28 pm

      I am attracted by the sonnet, as well, Barb. I’m heading over to read.

  12. purplepeninportland

    09/05/2012 at 3:09 pm

    Please excuse me for posting here, but it was too personal for my blog. Thanks.


    Cracks in Cement

    Steely resolve of a widow
    to busy herself, and not show
    a wedge of weakness; strength was her goal.
    Death of a loved one takes a toll.

    Her friends and family worried
    that along with her husband, she’d buried
    all emotions that make us whole.
    Death of a loved one takes a toll.

    In her frenzy, his life was packed;
    all signs of grief pushed far back,
    `til reality hit and thunderous tears rolled.
    Death of a loved one takes a toll.

    • margo roby

      09/05/2012 at 3:27 pm

      Never a problem, Sara, and thank you for posting something this personal. I am finding with everyone’s kyrielle, that I really like the refrain line. I think if people take their refrain line and use it as a first line, they will write a whole new poem.

    • whimsygizmo

      09/05/2012 at 7:23 pm

      Oh, Sara. This is powerful, and makes my heart ache. Beautiful poem. And many hugs and prayers.

      • purplepeninportland

        09/05/2012 at 7:38 pm

        Thanks, De. This is about a friend of many years whose husband passed away last week. I am heartened to see her finally break down.

        • whimsygizmo

          09/05/2012 at 7:41 pm

          I have a friend who lost her husband suddenly, to a breathing issue, just a few months ago. Both of them barely in their mid-30s. Heartbreaking. Your poem so powerfully portrays that “steely resolve.”

    • Misky

      10/05/2012 at 6:00 am

      A beautiful and heartfelt poem. This piece has touched my heart, having struggled with this grieving process myself. We can prepare ourselves for all sorts of things that come our way through life, but grief and loss are something that always catches us unprepared and crushes our spirit. My sincere and most peaceful wishes to you.

      • purplepeninportland

        10/05/2012 at 5:31 pm

        Thanks so much, Misky. No, there is no way to prepare, even if you know ahead of time.

  13. Misky

    11/05/2012 at 5:17 am

    I’ve given this form another try. If you have time, I’d appreciate your stopping by for a quick read and comment.
    Thank you very much!

    • margo roby

      11/05/2012 at 7:26 am

      Absolutely, Misky. I am on my way.

      • Misky

        11/05/2012 at 11:08 am

        Thanks for the input. It always helps because otherwise it’s like running about blindfolded. If a person’s not guided toward improvement, then, well, heck sakes … what’s the point. Right? I could be in the kitchen baking bread, where I absolutely do know what I’m doing …. 😀

        Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t have had that wine spritzer with lunch. I’m an infantile boozer.

        • margo roby

          11/05/2012 at 12:32 pm

          What fun is it to do something you are sure about :-)?

          You should always have that wine spritzer with lunch. Why deprive yourself of fun, right? Hmmm. I have wine. I have soda water…

          • Misky

            11/05/2012 at 12:39 pm

            Come now; we’re talking warm, straight-out-the-oven, homemade bread with lashings of homemade butter (oh, yes, I do that also!) … that’s the fun – the fun of eating of it.

            Sounds like you have a spritzer!

            • margo roby

              11/05/2012 at 1:00 pm

              Hey. I’m almost sixty. I want your bread, the spritzer, poetry… the works. Your company would be nice too 🙂

  14. b_y

    11/05/2012 at 12:49 pm

    Took me a while, and I haven’t nerved up enough to try the kyrielle sonnet, but here’s mine written fresh this morning.

  15. barbara_

    27/05/2012 at 8:50 pm

    Decided to have a go on the kyrielle sonnet. the password is submit


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