Saturday, 2 March 2013

Anatomy of Sestina

A sestina is a poetic form that has been around since the 12th century.  It is beautiful and filled with some neat maths, if you like such things.  I found that it is also quite an exercise to write in sestina because I tend to write more free form verse.  I chose the end words: dark, pond, waves, sink, light and face.  These words are reordered in a certain way (see graph) for each stanza.  The poem is capped off with a tercet containing all the end words in the order 6, 2, 1, 4, 5, 3.  I have numbered the words to make it easier to follow the structure.

Wikimedia Commons- A visual representation of the
structure of a sestina.  Note also the the
retrogradatio cruciata that builds the sestina.
Dark Pond

The shore was dread and drear and dark 1
along the rim of the faded pond. 2
It chopped itself up and broke into tiny waves 3
that caused incautious insects to sink. 4
We were unaware of the rowdy light, 5
that we were soon to face. 6

The night had dropped and I lost your face, 6
hovering on the edge of deepest dark. 1
I forgot to bring a light, 5
and us with cigarettes unlit beside the pond 2
throwing bits of our hearts never to see them sink 4
blamelessly into the waves. 3

To hell with the forgetful, dragging waves, 3
I had never had the gall to face! 6
But instead of swimming, I did sink, 4
down to grab our bits of heart in the dark, 1
beneath the frightful, gripping pond, 2
still without the aid of light. 5

At last, a blaze of ochred light 5
shone upon the jewelled waves 3
in time for you to see me fade into the pond. 2
As I drifted down, I saw your face 6
filling up the wasting dark. 1
I ceased to sink. 4

But how I wanted to sink 4
away from listless, paltry light 5
to be in sweet, forgiving dark. 1
Please, let me have the waves. 3
There are some things we are not meant to face. 6
You schlepped me from the pond. 2

Coughing water from my lungs, I inched towards the pond, 2
still hoping you would let me sink. 4
The broken heart you swallowed up had settled on your face, 6
that I could see by campfire light, 5
Glittering on the waves, 3
surrounded by close fitting dark. 1

I'll never forget your face 6 as you hunched beside the pond. 2
Your eyes were as dark 1 as a basement sink, 4
as you turned away from the light 5 and towards the lapping waves. 3

Tomorrow I will be experimenting with another form.  I don't know which one yet, so stay tuned!

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