Writing a Kyrielle Sonnet

“The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.”
– T.S. Eliot

There are two parts to this post. First, let’s discuss what a sonnet is. After all, a Kyrielle is just a variation of it. It’s important to note that all sonnets are using iambic pentameter that consists of five bah-BAH sounds, looking like this:

bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH

The first syllable is unstressed while the second syllable is always emphasized. When these are spoken out loud, you should hear how the syllables fall and rise. Here are some words you may have forgotten that follow the iambic meter:

within (when we emphasize the second syllable, it’s withIN)
forgive (here the give is emphasized…forGIVE)

An iambic meter, however, is always two syllables. They can be one word or two words. The opposite of an iambic meter is called a trochee meter. It looks like this:

BAH-bah BAH-bah BAH-bah BAH-bah BAH-bah

So for instance:
fourteen (FOUR is the syllable that is emphasized)
Sonnet (here, SON is emphasized; the first syllable of sonnet)

Now that we’ve cleared up meter, let’s get back to writing a sonnet. Each sonnet you write is going to be fourteen lines. It has 3 quatrain stanzas and 1 couplet. This means each quatrain is a stanza with four lines, while a couplet is a stanza with only two lines. But don’t fret too much about keeping them straight. It’s simple once you get going.

If you write your poem in couplets, you can have as many as 7 rhymes. These lines do not have necessarily be right up against other. Check out this rhyme pattern:

aa / bb / cc / dd / ee / ff / gg
abab / cdcd / efef / gg
abba / cddc / effe / gg

**Note: Each letter represents a different word set that rhymes together. The couplet of a’s, for instance, would not rhyme with the couplet of b’s or c’s.

Let’s take this step by step. In stanza one, the poet is introducing the main theme and the main metaphor. Really use figurative images to draw the reader into your poem. In the second stanza, this metaphor is made more complicated. Perhaps an example given. Then, in the third stanza, introduce conflict. Finally, the couplet you write should sum it all up and bring the reader to closure.

Most themes of sonnets revolve around human life. Think about love and war. Hardship, change, and social issues are also fantastic topics. What you’re trying to do is answer a larger question about something. You’re approaching this topic on a deeper level so the reader can understand and grasp your idea.

It’s also important not to forget the volta, which is Italian for turn. It could reflect a change in the theme, the metaphors or the imagery. Its purpose is to alert the reader that the poem is coming to an end. The volta changes location with each sonnet variation but it’s presence is always necessary.

Let’s move on to the Kyrielle sonnet. It’s not that difficult, really, but the rhyme scheme is going to be different than a traditional sonnet. Here it is with two variations:

AabB / ccbB / ddbB, AB
AbaB / cbcB / dbdB, AB

As you can see, this couplet is non-rhyming. For the couplet, you’re simply moving A and B down to the bottom. It keeps the traditional refrain, however, as a kyrielle poem would. It’s represented as B in the rhyme scheme. In this type of sonnet, however, each line is only eight syllables.

Try your hand at a Kyrielle poem today. You’ll find how they fun they are and how much they spark your creativity.

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