Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poetry Challenge #3: Sestina

Before we get started on the next incarnation of the Poetry Challenge, I would like to thank all of you who submitted your lovely entries for the Cinquain Challenge. If you missed any, be sure to read them here. My dear husband Bill submitted two just today, so do check those out.

Buckle your seatbelts, kids, this one might be bumpy! 

A sestina is a complex poem that uses a lot of repetition, particularly in the last word of each line. It is made up of six six-line stanzas (the poetic equivalent of a paragraph) and one three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length (and therefore any meter); the only restriction is that you keep recycling the six end words of your first stanza, so choose them well. Here is the order for how you use the end words:
7. (envoi): ECA or ACE

The envoi must also incorporate the other three repeated words that you aren't using as the end words into the lines. 

If that sounds confusing, try applying that blueprint to an example poem.
Six Words 
by Lloyd Schwartz





never . . . 


yes no 
maybe sometimes 
always never.

No guarantees mine will be that clever. You CAN use more than just the six repeated words, as well. There are several other examples of this form here.

Keep in mind that I am trying many of these forms out for the first time along with you, and this is one of those times. It took me probably close to an hour to write this, and it is likely because I chose really strange words for the repeated ones (I tried to use some of my favorite words). I apologize if this does not make sense; I think I will try to write another one later, too, but for right now my brain hurts. Here it is:

Favorites (a sestina)

They weren’t searching for the juxtaposition;

although he thought her ebullient,

they followed the same path through indigo

dusk, past the surging crowd, to a place more serene

and unexpectedly formed a connection;

some may call it serendipity.

She had prayed for serendipity,

as she had suffered an awkward juxtaposition.

she needed to reestablish her connection

with herself and her goals, to regain her ebullient

qualities, to become more serene,

and she discovered the way--through the indigo.

Yes, as she followed the boy through the indigo

she slowly discovered her serendipity

and how he could make her so serene--

a marvelous juxtaposition,

because he had thought her ebullient,

they forged their strong connection.

Since, they fostered their connection

through moods indigo

and otherwise, sometimes even ebullient,

trusting in the serendipity

of the original juxtaposition,

deeply serene.

Lately they find it harder to remain serene;

while strengthening their connection

they juggle the juxtaposition

of jobs or school making them indigo

and the serendipity

of a new being so ebullient.

The baby makes all ebullient,

while not-so-serene;

each day seems like serendipity

only deepening the connection

once found through the indigo--

a most welcome juxtaposition.

The serendipity of the connection

formed in the serene indigo:

ebullient and soulful in juxtaposition.

So, my lesson learned is, don't pick really difficult words unless you want to tie your brain in knots. Hopefully you enjoyed it somewhat anyway. I know this one sounds difficult, but I am still eager to see what you can come up with!! Try it out! I promise I won't bite.


Mimi said...

Oh, my! This IS a challenge. I love your autobiographical poem - it captures your essence, somehow!

paige said...

i totally agree! i AM going to do this, but i need some time - i'll be back!

Minerva said...

Mimi: Thanks so much, I'm glad you like my first attempt. Hope to read yours soon!

Paige: I know you can do it. Take as much time as you need. :)

paige said...

crap, there's no way i'll be able to keep this in it's right lines etc... in the comment section - but i'll give it a go... plus, mine doesn't sound as effortless as yours, Kristine...

Family (a sestina - i hope)

The Family - my family
fresh, new & not to be torn asunder
vows spoken in voices tender
rings exchanged - the begining of our joy.
Husband - wife - names so fresh
A union in it's perfection, exquisite.

Broken, he holds me - our lost son, exquisite.
Unforgotten member of our family.
Snow falls, my grief remains fresh.
First hardening, softening, chaging, my whole being asunder.
He twists my hair in his hands - remember our joy?
i cradle him still in my memory so tender.

Thinking i'll break if he's too tender,
he hardens himself - the balance is exquisite.
Dawns the morning of cautious joy -
Precious daughter! Healing gift from God, Family.
Joy gives hope and we will not be torn asunder.
New levels of love, my soul takes flight with what is fresh.

Peace reigns as days dawn fresh
Little ones grow in our embrace so tender.
We scoff at what would tear us asunder
whispered promises in twisted sheets at midnight are exquisite.
Children run, grow, feel safe - strong roots of family.
Seasons of pain, seasons of peace, seasons of joy.

Clouds form, shadows creep to steal our joy.
We're safe, but others are sinking, the enemy is fresh.
Fathers gone, mamas absent, children insolent - family.
When did that word lose it's meaning, tender?
Torn apart, pain exquisite -
destroyed, deformed, maligned, asunder.

Floundering, sputtering, drowning, asunder.
He hears, He sees - our pain, our sorrow, our joy.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures." - exquisite.
"He restores my soul" How can those words be fresh?
He beckons our broken hearts in tones ever tender,
The author, the finisher, the creator of family.

His love is exquisite and fresh.
Our quivering joy, tender.
No longer asunder, family.

Minerva said...

Paige--wow!! I don't know why you would think yours was in any way inferior to mine; I think they are both very personal in their own way, and for me, yours was probably more accessible than mine. That is why I plan to try this form again sometime this week.
1,000 points for a moving, lovely tribute to your little brood.

Mimi said...


To be this woman
is to experience motherhood,
to be a sister,
a friend,
a wife.
Hopefully with grace.

Facing difficulties with grace,
As a woman,
As widow and wife,
In the midst of motherhood,
as compassionate friend
and caring sister.

Especially hard as an alcoholic's sister,
trying to understand and help with grace
while remaining friend;
Staying true to myself as woman.
Not confusing sisterhood with motherhood,
or neglecting the role of wife.

Keeping my vows as wife,
while honoring my bond as sister -
finding solace in motherhood,
and in that realizing unearned grace.
Grace keeping me whole as woman,
keeping me steady as friend.

Diverse are the women I call friend
who help me become a better wife,
who help me emerge a better woman.
They encourage me to see the boundary of being sister,
and do so with consummate grace.
They rejoice with me in the splendor of motherhood.

With God's help I travel the terrain of motherhood,
trying always to be mentor and friend.
Asking continually for strength and grace;
to be for my husband the best wife,
to be for my brother the needed sister,
to be a strong and grace-filled woman.

To be this woman -
mother, wife, friend, sister,
and endeavor to be all with grace.

This WAS a challenge...I hope I got it right. I enjoyed making my brain do something new!

Minerva said...

Mimi-to me, as long as you honor the constraints of a poem enough to call it that type of poem, I feel like you have done it "right." Other than that, make it your own--just like you have done. Wonderful job, and I'm glad you liked stretching your brain in a new direction. I have come to really appreciate this form. 1,000 points for a stirring depiction of the many hats women (you in particular) have to wear.

Anonymous said...

(Not a sestina)(because I'm totally a wimp)

Wow! I stand in awe
I would need a week's run-up
To dare an attempt!


Minerva said...


You are not a wimp.
Just remember, the challenge
will be up all week!

cairo said...

hi! i'm paige's daughter, Cairo!

Gage - (a sestina)

The sky overhead is blue
as we sit and wonder
if a baby we would love
would come and make our family grow.
In our house we would be squished
but we would welcome him warmly.

As June rolls around my mom smiles warmly
a baby is coming. Pink? Or will it be blue?
We hear a tiny heart beat and see the babe is squished.
We stare in wonder
as we watch Peek-a-boo grow,
we fall in love.

That tiny small face who could help but love?
In our arms he snuggles warmly,
and as he starts to grow,
we are glad he's wearing blue.
As he learns to walk, we watch in wonder.
in his twelve month sleepers, he is squished.

We had to make room and we're all a little squished.
But every minute of it, we love.
He stares at us with big eyes - what is he thinking, we wonder?
In his bed, he snuggles warmly
underneath his blankets blue.
We are filled with joy as we watch him grow.

The bigger he gets, the more we watch him grow.
The more sleepers he outgrows, the more in which he looks squished.
His eyes are looking bigger too - the prettiest shade of blue.
We're completely in love.
At our little prince, we stare in wonder.

How we were chosen to get this gift we wonder!
This little baby came in and made our hearts grow.
He looks at us and smiles warmly.
He presses his face to the window, making it look squished.
We are filled with love.
For this little gift that came wrapped in blue.

We hug and squeeze you warmly until you are squished!
The more you grow, the deeper we're in love!
We wonder how are your eyes so blue?

Minerva said...

Cairo--first of all, welcome to our little writing group! I'm so glad you wanted to join us.
What a wonderful tribute to your baby brother. 1,000 points for a sweet expression of sisterly love.

Let this be motivation for lurkers out there, this great poet is still very young, and she pulled off a terrific sestina!

Alicia said...

Boy, you really gave me a challenge this week! I finally finished one, here it is...

How could you know
from that very first moment
where we would be now?
There was never a doubt
in your mind
that we would fall in love.

And it was love
that helped us through 'I don't know'
into 'I don't mind'.
Still I paused for a moment,
heavy with doubt.
Is this real now?

But now,
my love,
there's no more doubt.
Please know,
from this moment,
you are the only one on my mind.

Pay no mind
to the past. We're here now.
Move forward from this moment.
Feed our love
with what we know
and forsake doubt.

We laugh at those who doubt,
but really I don't mind.
They don't know
or understand how strong we are now.
It's true love,
so lets not spare another moment.

'I do' from this moment,
beyond a shadow of a doubt,
take you as my husband, love.
It's finally as official as it was in my mind...
I hope you know
you're stuck with me now.

I doubt you really know
what that moment would bring now.
Love, did a baby ever come to mind?

Minerva said...

Alicia--well done! I know how much you have been working on this. I love the economy of language on this, and how conversational it sounds. You should let Adam read this one :)
1,000 points for your tenacity paying off!

Alicia said...

I haven't let him read any so far! LOL! He's been asking, but I'm a little embarassed about it, I guess. I suppose you're right, though...he should read this one.

Mimi said...

Wonderful poem, Cairo! It's fun to see someone young who reminds me a lot of the way 'Minerva' used to be!

I am so happy to be in the company of women unafraid (well, maybe a little afraid) or at least brave enough to try new things. We're all growing!