I'm excited to share a sestina this week! If you don't know what a sestina is, it's a poem in which you use 6 words to finish each line in a poem that is comprised of 7 stanzas (the first 6 stanzas are 6 lines long, the final has 3 lines). There's an alternating pattern of using the end words that I could explain, but instead, I'll see if you can figure it out with my brand new example below.
now this is how we roll, by Robert Lee Brewer
with our sonnets and pretty sestinas,
we strut to the open mic looking like
buttoned up versions of both walt whitman
and emily dickinson. we talk sin
but we live right, walk soft but uptight.
sure enough, we carry our umbrellas
as if they're canes instead of umbrellas.
who do we think we're fooling? sestinas
are one thing, but if you want your shit tight,
you should go free verse and burst slant rhymes like
a machine gun, son. it's fun when you sin
against poetic forms like walt whitman
spewing verses. o whitman, my whitman--
can you feel it, friend, on your umbrella?
i'm raining line breaks and rhyme medicine
for those suckers writing sestinas
like chumps. so move your rump, shake those lumps like
fergie, whether your body's loose or tight.
we'll poem all night and all them uptight
poets can buy a clue from walt whitman
and suck it, and then tuck it away like
the fakes they be. i've seen their umbrellas
tucked nicely beneath them like sestinas
they have yet to write. live your life like sin
again and again, my friend, if it's sin
that you write, and may your pant rolls be tight
if you think it's fun to write sestinas.
i mean, what in poe's name would walt whitman
do, fool? you think he'd pass out umbrellas,
or soak in all the rain and then rave like
some drunken lunatic who grows beards like
it ain't no thing? i sing, assassins,
i sing for poets without umbrellas
to shield them from your concealed rhymes turned tight
as lines broken right. you know walt whitman
sings everything--even sestinas,
especially when sestinas sound like
walt whitman covering the world in sin
before shaking loose his tight umbrella.
|I Was the Jukebox, by Sandra Beasley|
I Was the Jukebox: Poems
by Sandra Beasley (Norton)
Since my poem this Saturday was a sestina, there were few poets I could think of better suited for a review than Sandra Beasley, who I know is a fan of that particular poetic form. In fact, I Was the Jukebox includes a very funny sestina from the perspective of a platypus ("The Platypus Speaks")--not to mention one from an eggplant ("The Eggplant Speaks"). The first Beasley poem I ever read is included in this collection, "The Translator," which masterfully plays off the identity of those who translate another's voice; I remember reading it to my wife (before she was my wife) from an issue of Hotel Amerika over the phone while I was in Los Angeles. But it's not just for sentimental reasons that I love this collection; it's because once you enter a Beasley collection you realize you're in the presence of a master wordsmith, one who knows the rules and when to break them.
Poems Found Online:
- Where Father And Daughter Are Seekers, by Uma Gowrishankar from Qarrtsiluni
- My Grandmother Speaks of Beauty, by Kimberly O'Connor from storySouth
- Shining, by Arlene Ang from DMQ Review
- Poem Noire, by Joshua Gray from Referential Magazine
- If The World Is Crazy, We Will Be Crazy Too, by Mike Young from H_NGM_N
Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
Since he was an end word in my sestina above, I guess it's most appropriate for me to give a nod to Walt Whitman and his brilliant Leaves of Grass in this post. For those not familiar with Whitman, I did sneak in a nod here and there to his brilliant poetry within my sestina. The first time I read Whitman in high school, it was culture shock, and it really rocked me--the wrong way. But I couldn't resist coming back again and again over the years. I still have a copy of Leaves of Grass that I found in a used bookstore while I was in high school, and I keep it near me at all times--and will even bring it with me on long trips as a good luck charm of sorts. Leaves of Grass has truly earned its spot as a book within the bible of poetry, and like the Bible, I flip to random passages in this book for inspiration, guidance, and comfort.
Note: Links in this post to books are affiliate links. However, I do not mention these books just to make a profit. They are either books I'm connected to or ones I truly love. All other links in this post are not affiliate links.
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