Week Thirteen: The Kyrielle

Introduction

Two French forms in as many weeks? C’est fou! Good thing they’re a joy to write! The kyrielle is said to have originated in troubadour poetry, which would place its emergence somewhere between the 11th and 14th centuries. It is also associated with and adapted from the kýrie of Christian liturgy. Like many French forms–including last week’s Triolet— the kyrielle features a simple rhyme scheme, uniform syllable count, and a repeated line in each stanza.

Caption: The troubadour Perdigon playing his fiddle (Wikipedia).

Featured Kyrielle

“Dinky
by Theodore Roethke

O what’s the weather in a Beard? 
It’s windy there, and rather weird, 
And when you think the sky has cleared 
— Why, there is Dirty Dinky. 

Suppose you walk out in a Storm, 
With nothing on to keep you warm, 
And then step barefoot on a Worm 
— Of course, it’s Dirty Dinky. 

As I was crossing a hot hot Plain, 
I saw a sight that caused me pain, 
You asked me before, I’ll tell you again: 
— It looked like Dirty Dinky. 

Last night you lay a-sleeping? No! 
The room was thirty-five below; 
The sheets and blankets turned to snow. 
— He’d got in: Dirty Dinky. 

You’d better watch the things you do. 
You’d better watch the things you do. 
You’re part of him; he’s part of you 
— You may be Dirty Dinky.

**A note on “Dinky”**

Roethke doesn’t stick exactly to the formal requirements presented for the kyrielle below. Traditionally, all lines would contain the same number of syllables.

Requirements of the Form

Structure

– Made of at least three four-line stanzas (quatrains). The last line of each stanza repeats, acting as a refrain. Minor variations in the refrain are allowed to emphasize meaning.

Content

– no restrictions, though historically often with a religious theme

Syllable Count

– traditionally, eight syllables per line

Meter

– poet’s choice, though in English the eight-syllable line requirement works nicely in iambic tetrameter

Rhyme

– historically written as couplets, or aabb pattern, with the fourth line in each stanza repeated as a refrain. Other possible rhyme schemes: abab, aaab, abcb.

An Original Kyrielle

What She’s Due [a Modern Kyrielle)

She chose the way the rivers run,     
The bubbles burst, the drops of dew
Evaporate in morning sun–
The Earth won’t ask for what she’s due.

Where multitudes are cut to one
And forests shrink where once they grew,
There she will end what we’ve begun–
The Earth won’t ask for what she’s due.

This war on nature can’t be won–
Where skies are black that should be blue–
She takes control, she turns the gun–
The Earth won’t ask for what she’s due.

The web of life will be re-spun.
The natural cycles will renew.
When acts of man can’t be undone,
The Earth will take just what she’s due.

Links to Online Resources

Kyrielle – Writer’s Digest
Kyrielle – Wikipedia
Troubadour – Wikipedia
Kyrielle – Suzie’s Sanctuary

2 thoughts on “Week Thirteen: The Kyrielle

  1. Pingback: Week Thirty-Six: Pantoum – Astra Poetica

  2. Pingback: The Kyrielle – Adam of the Universe

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