Saturday, November 19, 2016

Prompt #268 – Remember and Give Thanks

Thanksgiving will take place this coming week and is a day set aside here in the United States (other countries have similar days) to remember and give thanks—it's a time when families and friends gather, a celebration of sharing, community, and gratitude.

For this prompt, I invite you to write a poem about something for which you are grateful. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of grumbling about what we don’t have, miss, need, etc., that this is a great time to take a step back and acknowledge the gifts and blessings that we have in our lives. Instead of focusing on deficits, let’s focus on abundances.

A form that lends itself to this prompt is the kyrielle. Once very popular, the kyrielle originated in France, dates to the Middle Ages, and takes its name from kyrie (found in many Christian liturgies). Many hymn lyrics were written in this form, but kyrielle content is not limited to religious subjects. A traditional kyrielle is often short, octosyllabic (each line 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.


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. You may want to use this refrain in your 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. You may write about one thing for which you're grateful, or each quatrain may be about individual things that have inspired your gratitude.


1. 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).

2. There is no limit to the number of stanzas a kyrielle may have, but three is the generally accepted minimum. So … your poem should be at least three stanzas long.

3. Try to work with a rhyme scheme —a good way to exercise your poetic muscles. However, if rhyming isn’t your thing, go with what works best for you.

4. The kyrielle is exceptionally versatile, and you can have a lot of fun experimenting with this prompt. Just keep in mind that the theme and tone of your poems should be thankfulness.

5. If the kyrielle doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to write your “thankful” poem in any form that you wish!


Kyrielle by 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.

Poems about Thankfulness and Thanksgiving:

“Te Deum” by Charles Reznikoff

“Thanks” by W. S. Merwin

“When Giving Is All We Have” by Alberto Ríos (audio)

“Thanksgiving Letter from Harry” by Carl Dennis 

“Thanksgiving Day” by Lydia Maria Child


  1. This is lovely, Adele! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Adele!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to Adele and all the blog readers!