I just got some encouraging feedback on a sestina I wrote a few years ago (posted on my site here) so I think I might try writing another one. I’ve tried writing in many different poetic forms (I used to read through encyclopedias of forms for fun) but the sestina is one that has always both intrigued and baffled me. I’ve come to realize, however, that some of my best work comes from simply getting the words out–whether through a sonnet, a quadrille, or something else–and then revising the form if necessary later. So that’s what I will try to do this time.
For those of you who don’t know how a sestina is structured (I still have to look it up, as it’s not very intuitive), here is what Poetry Foundation says about the sestina:
A complex French verse form, usually unrhymed, consisting of six stanzas of six lines each and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in a different order as end words in each of the subsequent five stanzas; the closing envoy contains all six words, two per line, placed in the middle and at the end of the three lines. The patterns of word repetition are as follows, with each number representing the final word of a line, and each row of numbers representing a stanza:
1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)
See Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “The Complaint of Lisa,” John Ashbery’s “Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape,” and David Ferry’s “The Guest Ellen at the Supper for Street People.”
dVerse Poets Pub also has a great post about the sestina here.
Stay tuned for the results!