Copyright © 2010 - 2012 dasuntoucha. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fixed Poetry Form: The Sestina

Over the next few weeks I’ll be trying my hand at fixed poetry forms such as the Chant Royal, Pantoum, Sonnet and the Villanelle. In this post, I’m going to attempt a Sestina.

What is a Sestina you might ask? Well it’s a fixed form dating back to the 12th century containing six six-line stanzas and a three-line concluding stanza known as a tercet or envoi. The kicker is that the ending words of the first stanza are repeated throughout each of the following stanzas in a set pattern. For the finale, the same six words appear in the concluding three-line stanza, two in each line.

Here is how the pattern looks with a letter representing the placement of one of the six ending words:

Stanza 1: A, B, C, D, E, F
Stanza 2: F, A, E, B, D, C
Stanza 3: C, F, D, A, B, E
Stanza 4: E, C, B, F, A, D
Stanza 5: D, E, A, C, F, B
Stanza 6: B, D, F, E, C, A
Ending: AB CD EF

So to recap:
A Sestina is a poem that contains six six-line stanzas and a three-line ending stanza utilizing the same six ending words in all of the stanzas.

Looks intimidating right?

A couple of my poetry friends who’ve tried this gave me some tips on how to get started. One way is to pick six related words first, making sure you have a verb or two in the mix. Another way is to write the stanzas first then go back and fashion them to fit six words you choose after writing the poem.

But what’s the challenge in that?  So I chose the first option…here goes…I call this piece…

The Plague of Fate

To step up and bare the soul
unafraid of enormous hurt
that can crush a normal heart
causing memories to bleed
because our eventual fate
forces time to be cruel.

Sadistic satisfaction is cruel
that one should touch the soul
putting everything in the hands of fate
not worrying about hurt
1,000 daily deaths to bleed
just to once hold another’s heart.

But coldness seizes this heart
for reality is relentlessly cruel
coercing one to empty out and bleed
from the very pit of the soul
compounded hurt
seems to be our fate.

Oh, to be strong enough to fight fate
with the strength of a lion’s heart
coiling off hurt
the very thought cruel
as I fight to reach your soul
your name I will bleed.

Love, a dye that will never bleed
untainted or faded by fate
cleansing the soul
and reviving this heart
for kindness trumps an existence that’s cruel
erasing all traces of hurt.

Longing to touch you may hurt
causing worn abrasions to bleed
but compassion crushes time that is cruel
bringing us closer to fate
conjoining pieces of a heart
pacifying a once lost soul.

No more hurt because finally fate
dies as joy commences to bleed from the heart
time ceasing to be cruel, allowing unification into one soul.

© 2010 dasuntoucha


  1. Oh, sestina. That's my favorite form of poetry to torture myself with :) Whenever I want to spend like eight hours straight trying not to stab myself in the eye because this is really hard, I write a sestina.

    I've had exactly one come out the way I hoped for:
    and other than that there's always been something off about the rhythm I can't seem to fix... it's fun to see someone else give it a try!

    "Oh, to be strong enough to fight fate
    with the strength of a lion’s heart
    coiling off hurt
    the very thought cruel
    as I fight to reach your soul
    your name I will bleed."

    This is my favorite stanza. I like your ideas and your wording. One thing I really do with sestinas in particular is read them aloud to see how the rhythm of each sentence sounds by itself and then together.

  2. Yeah it's rough right? I cheated at the end and used bleeding instead of bleed because my brain was like enough of trying to finish this piece...but I stepped away for a while and came back to fix it.

    Now I'm off to check out your Sestina :-)

  3. I've cheated at the end, too :) As long as the guy who invented the Sestina doesn't roll over in his grave and come after us as a zombie, I think we're good!

  4. Hahahahahaaaaaaa :-D Checked out your Sestina...dig your storytelling...was going leave you a comment there but I had to sign in so I went to your art blog and left a comment...'re quite talented.

  5. WHEW........okay it took me like 10 minutes just to get the gist of the damned my head u for the lesson and this piece was off the chain.....gotta try this one the distant

  6. Whew! That looks so hard! I love a challenge, though. Someday maybe I'll try this.
    btw, BRILLIANT poem. I especially love "1,000 daily deaths to bleed/ just to once hold another's heart." That is beautiful.

  7. Great great Great Sestina!! Merci!! It is beautiful!! Ciao

  8. Intimidating is a good way to describe fixed poetry!

    “But coldness seizes this heart
    for reality is relentlessly cruel”

    This piece for me is earthy and ol’ worldly. I quite like the lilt that the structure gives it.