Exploraform: Sestina


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Thread: Exploraform: Sestina

  1. #1

    Exploraform: Sestina

    The sestina is a great form for the practice of repetition. The creation of the sestina is often attributed to the French troubadour Arnaut Daniel in the twelfth century; the form rapidly gained popularity and was used by the Italian Dante who is credited with giving the form its name.

    The forms popularity in English, says Lewis Turco, “is primarily a twentieth century phenomenon.” The sestina is written as six stanzas of six lines with a three-line ending envoi. The ending words of the first six lines repeat as the end words of every stanza in a specific mathematical pattern (which may or may not have had magical significance). These refraining words also appear in the envoi in a specific pattern.

    The order is as follows:

    Stanza 1
    A, B, C, D, E, F

    Stanza 2
    F, A, E, B, D, C

    Stanza 3
    C, F, D, A, B, E

    Stanza 4
    E, C, B, F, A, D

    Stanza 5
    D, E, A, C, F, B

    Stanza 6
    B, D, F, E, C, A

    The envoi consists of three lines and each line contains the end words in the following pattern:

    Line 1
    B, E

    Line 2
    D, C

    Line 3
    F, A

    Turco points out that the usual meter, in English, of Sestinas is iambic pentameter.

    A strong sestina will often have a subject of suitably haunting or obsessive material. The refrain words, therefore, should be appropriate to the subject and capable of setting the tone. The subject should also develop logically and be sustained through the envoi.
    One of the common problems poets have when writing the sestina is that the repeated words can become obtrusive. To take attention away from this many poets employ enjambment so that there is not a hard pause against the end words. On the converse the sestina’s repetition can emphasize ideas of obsession and build the sense of the strange or even creepy.

    The sestina is a fun form to write and to revise.

    Happy writing!

    Works Cited

    Adams, Stephen. Poetic Designs. Broadview Press. 2003.

    Turco, Lewis. The Book of Forms. 3rd Ed. University Press of New England. 2000.

  2. #2
    I so enjoy your introduction to these topics..cool
    The only one who can heal you is you.




  3. #3
    Sestinas are a beast to write, but totally worth the effort. I still never remember the pattern, so I keep a cheat sheet in my moleskine...
    Last edited by Darkkin; February 18th, 2017 at 04:41 AM.


  4. #4
    An example of a sestina:

    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth Bishop
    September rain falls on the house.
    In the failing light, the old grandmother
    sits in the kitchen with the child
    beside the Little Marvel Stove,
    reading the jokes from the almanac,
    laughing and talking to hide her tears.

    She thinks that her equinoctial tears
    and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
    were both foretold by the almanac,
    but only known to a grandmother.
    The iron kettle sings on the stove.
    She cuts some bread and says to the child,

    It's time for tea now; but the child
    is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
    dance like mad on the hot black stove,
    the way the rain must dance on the house.
    Tidying up, the old grandmother
    hangs up the clever almanac

    on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
    hovers half open above the child,
    hovers above the old grandmother
    and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
    She shivers and says she thinks the house
    feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

    It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
    I know what I know, says the almanac.
    With crayons the child draws a rigid house
    and a winding pathway. Then the child
    puts in a man with buttons like tears
    and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

    But secretly, while the grandmother
    busies herself about the stove,
    the little moons fall down like tears
    from between the pages of the almanac
    into the flower bed the child
    has carefully placed in the front of the house.

    Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
    The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
    and the child draws another inscrutable house.

  5. #5
    Here is my sestina I finished about 2 weeks ago--it's a long winded poem-long lines and quite dense--- these sestinas take a lot out of you but I love the form--those brave enough to read the whole thing will get a virtual pat on the back. I'm judging this month's PIP and I thought about putting it in the PIP challage as an example but thought if the poets saw this long philosophical hodgepodge of a piece it would discourage them from attempting it.

    The End of Forever is Tomorrow (a Sestina)

    The songs of creation shall be sung, not spoken, and will last forever and Eternity-
    It arises from the nothingness that the wisest of the wise have called Nirvana-
    But those of the ‘Mark’ grown fat from ecclesiastical lies--- seek heaven through Rapture,
    only to find out that which patiently awaits them--- is not bliss : but Oblivion-
    They fall into God traps and devil holes that are nothing more than distorted Illusions-
    We’ve been ripped apart into a trillion billion bits of light and night--- a fractured Totality-

    Out from the mists of chaos a force arises from the miasmic swell of a ruptured Totality-
    Time loops, strings, and other things, weaves its way into the rippling flow of Eternity-
    God seeks relevancy while angels and demons spin deceptions, obsessions, and Illusions-
    A laughing Buddha declares God is dead, sets the bodhi tree on fire and achieves--- Nirvana-
    To be released from the wheel of suffering one must seek emptiness and embrace Oblivion-
    But God huggers and lovers swear they hear the celestial music that announces the Rapture-

    Halleluiah! Halleluiah! Only the chosen shall be lifted on angel’s wings to heavenly Rapture-
    Those non-believers and pagan deceivers’ shall wander in the vastness of that cosmic Totality
    where reality warps, writhes, and melts its way too madness, desolation, and Oblivion-
    The strings of Time are non-linear and what was done can be undone throughout all Eternity-
    God’s angels and demons unite and smite the atheistic hordes who seek bliss through Nirvana;
    they cut the strings leading to emptiness and wholeness not realizing they too--- are Illusions-

    The Big Bang sang its song and left the stage...all that’s left, are remnants, echoes, and Illusions-
    God and His legions of Day and Night are but whispers in the wind preparing for the Rapture
    that has come and gone---they cling to existence rather than accepting the reality of Nirvana-
    The forever wheel of life/ death/ rebirth, ends on all the morrows of the multi-verse’s Totality-
    But in this bubbled universe that tomorrow came yesterday---halting the time flow of Eternity-
    Everything that was, is, and will be, will begin, end, and begin again, and again, until Oblivion-

    A tiny ripple, a faint stirring, an infinitesimal speck of dust explodes in the center of Oblivion-
    How is this so? Is not oblivion; annihilation, emptiness? Is everything that IS: just Illusions?
    Did not the Primal Creator shatter ITSELF to become form and legion till the end of all Eternity?
    From ITs dust, God comes. His angelic/demonic broods sing songs of judgment and Rapture,
    as well as those other Gods, Goddesses, fakers, sinners, and saints, that crowds all of Totality-
    But it’s the Yin-Yang of Tao and Karma that leads to truth and the sparkling rivers of Nirvana-

    Let’s take a dip into the streams of nothingness and dive deep into the depths of true Nirvana,
    for it is there where state of non-being and consciousness exists at the center of Oblivion-
    Shall we let IT dream? Poke IT awake! Watch IT explode and implode in all ITS Totality?
    But again, the end of forever ends and begins with dark twisted things and tempting Illusions,
    as the Gods’ rise again amongst the ashes and slay those deemed unworthy of Rapture-
    The wheel cracks and has splinterd spokes but continues to spin on and on till all Eternity-

    The NOW streams of Nirvana are a series of circles that are nothing but Illusions,
    which shatters when Oblivion comes and reforms itself again to sing its songs of Rapture-
    The whole of Totality are nothing but motes in GOD’s eye and each blink lasts an Eternity-
    Nature weeps, the devil sings
    at mans greed and pride
    and what it brings

    Just lots of useless
    little things

  6. #6
    Some tips on writing a sestina include:

    1) Start with a story. This form is excellent for narrative poems.
    2) Write the envoi as the conclusion to the story first. Rewrite it to be more poetic.
    3) Choose your ending words from the envoi you just wrote. If it isn't flexible enough then choose different words.
    4) Verbs or words that can function as verbs will get more mileage than nouns.
    5) Don't be afraid to try different versions of your ending words. You can mix it up by making them plural or with a gerund.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ariel View Post
    Some tips on writing a sestina include:

    1) Start with a story. This form is excellent for narrative poems.
    2) Write the envoi as the conclusion to the story first. Rewrite it to be more poetic.
    3) Choose your ending words from the envoi you just wrote. If it isn't flexible enough then choose different words.
    4) Verbs or words that can function as verbs will get more mileage than nouns.
    5) Don't be afraid to try different versions of your ending words. You can mix it up by making them plural or with a gerund.

    These tips are spot on. I don't think I would have been able to do the form if I didn't have the foundations of a story to tell. Quite simply, I would not have had the content to warrant the weight of a sestina. I will have to try that envoy trick, however. Never thought of trying it that way...


  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ariel View Post
    The sestina is a great form for the practice of repetition. The creation of the sestina is often attributed to the French troubadour Arnaut Daniel in the twelfth century; the form rapidly gained popularity and was used by the Italian Dante who is credited with giving the form its name



    The order is as follows:

    ***Stanza 1
    A, B, C, D, E, F
    Line 1... A***
    Line 2.. B***
    Line 3.. C***
    Line 4...D***
    Line 5... E***
    Line 6... F***

    ***The letters mean non rhyming... Correct?

    Stanza 2
    F, A, E, B, D, C

    Stanza 3
    C, F, D, A, B, E

    Stanza 4
    E, C, B, F, A, D

    Stanza 5
    D, E, A, C, F, B

    Stanza 6
    B, D, F, E, C, A

    The envoi consists of three lines and each line contains the end words in the following pattern:
    This part seems daunting...
    ****Line 1
    B, E

    Line 2
    D, C

    Line 3
    F, A

    Does it have to be 6 stanzas? Could I do.... maybe 3 or 4?














    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

  9. #9
    6 stanzas- is primary- it gives the poem weight. The envoy is really quite easy-it's almost like a recap of the main stanzas with a final closing of the knot.


    BTW--love your end words--the devil is licking his chops
    Nature weeps, the devil sings
    at mans greed and pride
    and what it brings

    Just lots of useless
    little things

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by rcallaci View Post
    6 stanzas- is primary- it gives the poem weight. The envoy is really quite easy-it's almost like a recap of the main stanzas with a final closing of the knot.


    BTW--love your end words--the devil is licking his chops

    She lost herself in the trees,
    among the ever-changing leaves.
    She wept beneath the wild sky
    as stars told stories of ancient times.
    The flowers grew toward her light,
    the river called her name at night.
    She could not live an ordinary life,
    with the mysteries of the universe
    hidden in her eyes....
    Author: Christy Ann Martine

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    love leaves a memory no one can steal....
    Author unknown.

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