Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Kyrielle

I seem to be stuck on repeating forms these days. There is something challenging about fitting the same line(s) into a poem and making it work.

A kyrielle is a French from that was originally used by Troubadours. In the original French kyrielle, lines had eight syllables. Written in English, the lines are usually iambic tetrameters. The distinctive feature of a kyrielle is the refrain in which the final line of every stanza is the same. The name of the form comes from the word kyrie, a form of prayer in which the phrase "Lord have mercy" (kyrie eleison) is repeated.

A kyrielle can be any length as long as it is written in 4 line stanzas of iambic tetrameters. A kyrielle also has a rhyme scheme. Two popular forms are aabB/ccbB/ddbB etc. or abaB/cbcB/dbdB etc., where B is the repeated refrain.

Here is an example of the form.
by John Payne

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 outsetting 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.
If you want to learn more about the kyrielle you can read this Wikipedia entry or the article Kyrielle: The Kyrie Reformed.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a kyrielle. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Thinking about snow again...


    Winter walks down blocks at night,
    while we’re asleep, our breathing slow.
    White flakes like doves soar and alight.
    The world is dressed in clothes of snow.

    Half moon reflects on fields of bright.
    A wind sighs high, then shivers low,
    and cold grows big. It snaps and bites.
    The world is dressed in clothes of snow.

    All things are different when it’s light.
    Through bare sharp trees the ravens go.
    Now photos must be black and white.
    The world is dressed in clothes of snow.

    —Kate Coombs, 2013
    all rights reserved

  2. “The Greatest”

    Muhammad Ali
    1942 –
    né Cassius Clay
    American heavyweight boxer

    Muhammad shouted out the round they’d fall:
    Opponents could expect a wake-up call.
    Fights ended on a right hook of despair
    In coliseums, twenty-one-feet square.

    His dazzling foot and hand speed banished hope,
    Jackhammer jabs, or else the rope-a-dope,
    Round after round a punishing nightmare
    In coliseums, twenty-one-feet square.

    Sonny Liston, Archie Moore, Ernie Terrell,
    Chuvalo, Quarry, Foreman heard the bell.
    What weapons could they put to use but prayer
    In coliseums, twenty-one-feet square?

    The “Thrilla in Manila,” blow for blow
    The Battle Ali won, saw “Smokin’ Joe”
    Frazier fight the fight immortals dare.
    Their coliseum? Twenty-one-feet square.

    J. Patrick Lewis

  3. Greying: A Kyrielle

    This is the end of the late summer wine.
    This is the start of the red and gold fall.
    This is the heart beat of old age decline.
    This is when head wants an end to it all.

    This is the moment when memory fails,
    This is the movement that rises to fall.
    This is the motion that constantly fails,
    This is when heart wants an end to it all.

    This is when memories are longer than life.
    This is when winter is nearer than fall.
    This is when husband lies far from his wife,
    This is when heart wants an end to it all.

    This is when children and grandlings are born.
    This is when Heaven sends out its first call.
    This is when armies their armbands adorn.
    When my old heart wants a piece of it all.

    ©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

  4. These have all been inspiring. Here's mine:

    Right Whale Bones

    One day I’ll take a whale watch boat
    To see your great descendants float
    And breach up their enormous girth,
    Before they perish from the earth.

    That day I’ll hear their right whale song,
    And I will gladly sing along,
    As they intone with mammal mirth,
    Before they perish from the earth.

    And if I’m lucky, I’ll have spied
    An infant calf by mother’s side,
    Who weighs a ton his day of birth,
    Before they perish from the earth.

    Your skeleton is ghostly white,
    But I will join your faithful fight.
    If humans learn your precious worth,
    You’ll never perish from the earth.

    © 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved


    As seasons pass, as years go by
    I often sit and wonder why
    My soul mates’ with another guy –
    One day I’ll marry this angel.

    I hold back my urge to cry,
    I wish that I weren’t so shy,
    I cannot stand junior high!
    One day I’ll marry this angel.

    These feelings I cannot deny,
    At lunch, I decide to let fly
    My love for her, I want to die
    One day I’ll marry this angel.

    She said, “You’re sweet, let’s get some pie
    After school at The Pie Oh My,
    We’ll chat under their new lanai –
    One day I’ll marry this angel.

    (C) Charles Waters 2013 all rights reserved.