The Sestina Challenge

September 9, 2010

A basic definition of the sestina can be found here and a more indepth discussion from another class here.   Comprised of  seven stanzas (six sestets and a triplet), the sestina takes its most essential form from the repetition of six key words at the ends of lines, but they must follow a specified order.  The links here show the order by number or letter, and you can see it by looking at Bishop’s poem or the examples the sites provide.  The triplet, sometimes called the envoi, also must use all six of the words in a specified order (internally and at the end of the line) but many practitioners fudge the order as long as they get all six in to that final stanza.

Your turn:  Write a decent sestina alone or in collaboration with other classmates.  Earn undying admiration for doing it in iambic pentameter.  Do not be sentimental lest Matt insult you.  Post.

Two hints:

1) Choose at least one word that is flexible–e.g., may be used as a noun or a verb, has several definitions  (break), or has homophones (to, two, too).  Avoid choosing all words that have the same grammatical function (all verbs, e.g.) unless there is some compelling reason to do so.

2) When you are ready to start, put all the words on a page at the ends of lines where they must appear so you can visualize the order more concretely.

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