Saturday, November 20, 2010

Poetry Prompt #32 - The Kyrielle

O Lord that lends me life,

Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

– William Shakespeare 

For this prompt, in keeping with the Thanksgiving holiday this week, let's write a Kyrielle-type poem in which thankfulness is expressed. Once very popular, the Kyrielle originated in France, dates to the Middle Ages, and takes its name from kyrie (a litany in the Catholic Mass). Many hymn lyrics were written in this form, but content is not limited to religious subjects. A traditional Kyrielle is often short, octosyllabic (each lines contains eight syllables), and is typically presented in four-line stanzas. A traditional Kyrielle also contains a refrain (a repeated line, phrase, or word) at the end of each stanza. The most widely cited Kyrielle is "A Lenten Hymn" by Thomas Campion.

Here's a format that may be helpful:

1. Begin by thinking about things for which you're grateful. Think in terms of particulars and details – not ideas, but specifics (i.e. not love, but an example of love that you've known; not friendship, but a particular friend).

2. Think of places in which you've been especially thankful (the "geography of thanks"). Think of the people who were part of the story.

3. Write a few ideas for "thankful" refrains (repeated line, phrase, or word) before you begin writing the poem.

4. Write a quatrain (four-line stanza) about a particular thing for which you're thankful. Each line should contain eight syllables. If you wish, you may create a rhyme scheme. The last line, phrase, or word in your first stanza will become your refrain.

5. Repeat step 4 as many times as you wish. Don't forget that each quatrain (four-line stanza) will end with the same line, phrase, or word. You may write your Kyrielle about one thing for which you're grateful, or each quatrain may be about individual things that have inspired your gratitude.

Remember that with all formal poems nowadays, it is vital that the form does not "drive" your poem.   If the form begins to feel forced or unwieldy, you may switch to something less deliberate (i.e., free verse, prose poem). 

My sincerest best wishes to all for a blessed and happy thanksgiving!


  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Adele - and to all the blog readers!

  2. Thanks, Bob's Mustangs, happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  3. Things have been extremely busy, so I haven't had much time to work on your prompts. Just wanted to let you know that I do read them and compose "in my head" even if I don't actually put pen to paper. :-)