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Poetry Competitions UK
14 Jun 2011

How to Write a Kyrielle

The Kyrielle is a medieval French form of poem - it's name is derived from a part of the church liturgy, the kyrie eleison, which is characterised by frequent repetition, as in a refrain of the sentence 'Lord, have mercy upon us'.

The Kyrielle is written in couplets that are often paired in quatrain. This refrain may contain of as little as a single word or as much as a whole line.

As is normal for French poetic forms, it is syllabic, (usually eight syllables). This can be seen in the example below.

The poem rhymes a-A, a-A, etc if it is in couplets, or a-a-b-B, c-c-b-B, etc if in quatrains. The latter may also be rhymed a-b-a-B, c-b-c-B, etc.


A Lenten Hymn

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pard'ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.
I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt opprest,
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.
Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God be merciful to me.
Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.
And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

a
a
b
B Refrain
c
c
b
B Refrain
d
d
b
B Refrain
e
e
b
B Refrain
f
f
b
B Refrain


The words to many hymns are in this rather simple form, though it is by no means confined to religious poetry. The Kyrielle structure is hugely adaptable with the versatility of the refrain line and the freedom change the direction of the thoughts conveyed. With a little practise this form is an excellent addition to your poetic craft.


Once you've written your poem, why not send it to us to be entered into our competition - You can send via post to: Forward Poetry, Remus House, Coltsfoot Drive, Peterborough PE2 9BF, or email it to inbox@forwardpoetry.co.uk.

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