I have never done recreational drugs, but I am beginning to think that writing a sestina is right up there with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
There are many quotes out there from famous poets about their own “trip” with a sestina. Says Ezra Pound, “The sestina is a form like a thin sheet of flame, folding and infolding upon itself….
No wonder we are so daunted! Maybe you even think you CAN’T write a sestina. I will prove you WRONG! You can SO write a sestina!
Now, the trick to the sestina is to CAREFULLY choose your teleteutons (those are the six end words!), whether you are keeping to the traditional sestina with the six words chosen being duplicated within each stanza or the contemporary approach of modifying the teleteutons with suffixes or prefixes.
First, how to choose your teleteutons ....
Say I wanted to write about the Titanic...
1) Focus on your poem’s theme... what are you trying to say, what points are you trying to connect? If I were to write a sestina about the sinking of the Titanic... I would probably choose. these as two.. ice and voyage
2) Choose words that have several different meanings... these are called homonyms some homonyms are words which are spelled exactly alike yet have radically different meanings. Take the word rock... she rocks the baby, he throws rocks... here is a helpful list of homonyms.
For my Titanic poem, I may select the word bow... to bow, the bow of a ship, a bow on a dress or in the hair of a child... also this will lead to my next point...
3) Choose a word that is HIGHLY flexible, a word that can be either a verb, a noun, an adjective, an adverb... say like the word warm. You warm your hands, you feel warm...
For my titanic poem, I choose... dream...
4) choose a word that is like a universal key, can fit anywhere.... over, up, around....
for the Titanic poem I choose... aboard
5) choose a word that startles ... will grab the reader when they see it...
For the titanic poem I choose... life.
So, the six words I’d choose for my Titanic sestina would be
Another thought, the sestina has a gift for the poet... the first end word is also the last end word for the sixth verse, PLUS it CAN BE the final word in the envoi...
This provides poets with two things...
one) the unique ability to end as strongly as they begin and
two) to come full circle
So ... I need to think about where I’m going...
ice, voyage, bow, dream, aboard, life
I’d change my order of my words...
not bad. I can do this...
So Last verse is like this...
no, I don't like that.. that is not were I see it going... hmmm... let me try again...
I see it ending more this way...
so the first verse could be
YES! I can do that...
Now, in a contemporary sestina, you can play with the suffixes and prefixes...
life, lifeboat, life-jacket, lifeline, lifetime, lifelong,
aboard, boarding, boarder, overboard, aboveboard, on board
ice, icing, iceberg, icy, Iceland, icily
voyage, voyager, voyages, bon voyage
bow, bowing, bows, bowtie, bowed, embower, elbowroom, bowstring
dream, dreaming, dreams, dreamed, dreamless, dreamy, dreamer, dreamboat, daydream
After reading the above words do you see the poem beginning to form?
How I see verse one... (this is just a brainstorm, not a poem)
Leaving a homeland for a new life
The family steps on board
The ship is like a wedding cake with pretty icing...
The Titanic is unsinkable and this is her maiden voyage
A young girl stares at a duchesses’ bonnet, fascinated by a bow
the child is enraptured, dazzled and begins to daydream
Warning, like Lucy in the sky, sestina’s seem to have an addictive quality.
Try it... lol.. you may just like it after all.
I found these fantastic sites on the Sestina. Worth the read! Especially if you enjoy the contemporary formatting.
CHEERS AND HUGS,CYNDIYES YOU CAN!