Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Library Patron and Staff Sestina Contest

What's involved: write a sestina exploring the theme of change/rebirth/resurrection/tranformation/metamorphosis (for Spring!) and then post it in the comments section of this entry (you will need a Blogger account). The deadline for entries is Sunday, May 31, 2009, after which our fair and impartial judge will select winners- who will be notified via Blogger within one week. Prizes include Esteban's and Kolache Factory gift certificates!

I hear you thinking "Ok, sounds fun- but what the heck is a sestina?" Well, that is the fun part- it's only just about the most complicated poetry form in the English language....

A sestina (also, sextina, sestine, or sextain) is a highly structured poem consisting of six six-line stanzas followed by a tercet (called its envoy or tornada), for a total of thirty-nine lines. The same set of six words ends the lines of each of the six-line stanzas, but in a different order each time; if we number the first stanza's lines 123456, then the words ending the second stanza's lines appear in the order 615243, then 364125, then 532614, then 451362, and finally 246531. This organization is referred to as retrogradatio cruciata ("retrograde cross"). These six words then appear in the tercet as well, with the tercet's first line usually containing 1 and 2, its second 3 and 4, and its third 5 and 6 (but other versions exist, described below). English sestinas are usually written in iambic pentameter or another decasyllabic meter. (

more information:
from the Academy of American Poets

Humorous sestinas from McSweeney's Internet Tendency

and finally, an example:

Sestina of the Tramp-Royal
by Rudyard Kipling
First published in The Seven Seas (1896).

Speakin' in general, I 'ave tried 'em all,
The 'appy roads that take you o'er the world.
Speakin' in general, I 'ave found them good
For such as cannot use one bed too long,
But must get 'ence, the same as I 'ave done,
An' go observin' matters till they die.

What do it matter where or 'ow we die,
So long as we've our 'ealth to watch it all —
The different ways that different things are done,
An' men an' women lovin' in this world —
Takin' our chances as they come along,
An' when they ain't, pretendin' they are good?

In cash or credit — no, it aren't no good;
You 'ave to 'ave the 'abit or you'd die,
Unless you lived your life but one day long,
Nor didn't prophesy nor fret at all,
But drew your tucker some'ow from the world,
An' never bothered what you might ha' done.

But, Gawd, what things are they I 'aven't done?
I've turned my 'and to most, an' turned it good,
In various situations round the world —
For 'im that doth not work must surely die;
But that's no reason man should labour all
'Is life on one same shift; life's none so long.

Therefore, from job to job I've moved along.
Pay couldn't 'old me when my time was done,
For something in my 'ead upset me all,
Till I 'ad dropped whatever 'twas for good,
An', out at sea, be'eld the dock-lights die,
An' met my mate — the wind that tramps the world!

It's like a book, I think, this bloomin' world,
Which you can read and care for just so long,
But presently you feel that you will die
Unless you get the page you're readin' done,
An' turn another — likely not so good;
But what you're after is to turn 'em all.

Gawd bless this world! Whatever she 'ath done —
Excep' when awful long — I've found it good.
So write, before I die, "'E liked it all!"

(This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was was published before January 1, 1923)


Unicorn Hall said...

A Kristina Sestina

Darkness around me unstructured free rhyme
No. More like random words- not a poem
Sadness and teardrops white zinfandel wine
Melancholy me- I could use a friend
Like the ones I lost in another time
Tripping on a chance, I met Kristina

Little interest at first in Kristina
Kind of like words in a doggerel rhyme
Together- but they’re not quite a poem
She winks at me “Zin should be a red wine”
Tells me she’s not sure she needs a new friend
But that she’ll sit for a smileful of time

A smile, becomes two, then three smiles of time
Things becoming less grey with Kristina
Brightening a bit like a haiku rhyme
Only five lines tis true- still a poem
One that goes well with a fine shiraz wine
Could it be that I now have a new friend?

She never said it, but what is a friend?
Certainly someone who gives you some time
Becoming someone like that- Kristina
Like a comfortable four lining rhyme
Dancing light through your day- a new poem
Sunshine peeking out and good merlot wine

Cabernet sauvignon deep fine rich wine
Conversations for two with a good friend
Dancing and birthdays and going out time
Seeing a warm spring play with Kristina
Shakespeare’s in the park- with fine sonnet rhyme
We match him, we two, with our own poem

A banner bright sun twined sunlight fine poem
Complex and deep a Bordeaux aged wine
Tripping on a chance I find a best friend
Dark fading now to a bright summertime
A friendship laughing-built with Kristina
Smiling, winking, tis a sestina rhyme.

A summer time, a sestina poem
A smiling rhyme, a very bestest friend
A crystaled wine- here’s to you Kristina.

Unicorn Hall said...

Okay, re-checking the directions, I see I got line order wrong. So when you say "other versions exist" does it means I can re-arrange line order? Judges, does this one work or do I have to do a complete re-write?

Jenny said...

I think this works! Thank you for participating- "sit for a smileful of time" is a great image

Jenny said...

Butterfly Sestina

They would be almost dry by now, my wings-
you would lure me in with colored water
i would lead you in circles through the mist
From the road they might think they saw a shine
Of something, something metal, or maybe
only a puddle reflecting the moon

we consider her together, the moon
i move aside, you stroke powder from my wings
i remind you what that does, but maybe
we're way too far past the deepest water
i'm not sure what it means when your eyes shine
i'm not sure what i did to cause that mist

between us swirls a thick column of mist
i see my mother, or maybe the moon
and when i look now it's your teeth that shine
and rougher and faster you stroke my wings
rougher and faster we part the water
now it's a different kind of maybe

now it's the very worst kind of maybe
now it's the very darkest kind of mist
now we're over the bottomless water
i thought i had an ally in the moon
i thought i had a blessing in the wings
i thought it was a blessed thing to shine

i thought i could dance the rainbow, i'd shine
all the way back down to the church, maybe
i convinced myself they were angel wings
i'm an angel special-born to the mist
i shouldn't have told you i kissed the moon
i shouldn't have brought you near the water

but now i know why we're here at the water
now i know why i'm allowed, compelled, to shine
i can grab the attention of the moon
my mother- the moon-the water- maybe
there is a rescue from you in the mist
maybe you've left life enough in my wings

but love me- i'll soak these wings in water
foundered in mist, i will feast on your shine
maybe i wouldn't miss kissing the moon

Jenny said...

Unicorn Hall is the winner!!! Please email your mailing address to to recieve your prize and certificate!