The sestina has always been considered a difficult form of poetry to master. It's Inventor Arnaut Daniel a mathematician and a poet belonged to a group of twelfth century French poets called the troubadours. They labelled their styles according to the difficulty and the Sestina was one of the trobar clus, the forms of the master troubadour. Later it was adopted by Francesco Petrarca who wrote a series of Sestinas which he called Canzone.

The Sestina is made up of seven stanzas. The first six stanzas have six lines each ending word falling in a precise mathematical progression, the seventh stanza has only three lines which are a mathematical reflection of the first stanza. This gives a total of (39 lines).

The first stanza is the defining stanza, and the six words that are used to end each line A.B.C.D.E.F. are the defining words. They are repeated in each of the following five stanzas of the poem in a strict pattern laid out thus:

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.
The final stanza (envoy) still uses the same six words, but uses only three lines with the even nubered words descending internally and the odd numbered words rising on the outside giving a pattern of:

Line 1..B..A
Line 2..D..C
Line 3..F..E
Perhaps it will be a little clearer when we look at the example below.

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
Sits in the kitchen with the child
Beside the Little Marvel Stove,
Reading the jokes from the almanac,
Laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
And the rain that beats on the roof of the house
Were both foretold by the almanac,
But only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
Is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
Dance like mad on the hot black stove,
The way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
Hangs up the clever almanac

On its string. Birdlike, the almanac
Hovers half open above the child,
Hovers above the old grandmother
And her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
Feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
And a winding pathway. Then the child
Puts in a man with buttons like tears
And shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
Busies herself about the stove,
The little moons fall down like tears
From between the pages of the almanac
Into the flower bed the child
Has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvellous stove
And the child draws another inscrutable house.

Elizabeth Bishop

Sestina Posts

Gloria Carpenter

The Singing Tree

Kevin McKinney

Call It In The Air
Varietal Whine

Kevin & Ryter

Varietal Whine

Ryter Roethicle

Sestina For All Hallows
She Comes Deliciously
Winter Love

Newell Elsworth Usher

Making my day

Gloria Carpenter


One on each side, those prominent pillars
Stood, hats protecting undergrowth from sky,
Like sentinels, intent on who returns.
We entered through the gateway, you with me,
In single file. I walked close behind you
In step with you, as if we stepped as one.

Sun-splashed floor, a changing quivering one,
Light flickering through red-leafed pillars,
As filtered rays now played, caressing you.
Screened sunlight streamed from the autumn sky.
New growth would spring, just as with you, with me.
We planted seeds and knew of their returns.

With silence shared, serenity returns,
Natureís stillness and radiance as one,
Touching your smile as you turned to face me.
Ahead a widening path, the pillars
Fell back revealing an uncluttered sky.
My footsteps covered spaces that were you.

We hurried closer to green tarns, and you
Ran as a river runs til it returns,
Happy to be free. Overhead the sky
Was filled with startled wings as one by one
They disappeared, finding refuge in pillars.
We were not alone; stealthy eyes watched me.

You felt it too, and showed the signs to me.
We moved away and I held hands with you.
British soldiers with red hats, tiny pillars ~
The revolutionary war returns.
Sentries on stones, closely packed as one.
Brilliance in this place below the sky.

The ground rose and climbed closer to the sky,
Ascending the mount surely, you beside me,
Not the first, nor would it be the last one,
Anticipating once again with you.
The climax reached, wonderment returns
Atop the world - we are the pillars.

We are one reaching the sky.
Two pillars ... you with me.
I hold you, as always love returns.


The Singing Tree

How delicate a spring, as greens unfold,
aflutter in sweet breezes freshness brings.
An invitation plays on prelude strings,
responding tenderly to notes of love,
in gentle strokes, as branches reach above
and intertwine with flecks of feathered gold.

Aurora spreads her glow of rayon gold
as day awakens, stretching to unfold
her drapes of misty veils below. Above
a trilling melody in greeting brings
an answer, calling to a budding love,
through tinkling dewcup bells on crystal strings.

As summer resonates on lively strings
a vibrant spray of colour fired by gold
resounds as rhapsodies encounter love,
in swooping dips and dives, as swirls unfold,
infusing soaring spirits fragrance brings
in wafts of sultry intervals above.

And when such searing heat is felt above
an intermezzo plays on cello strings ~
a love duet on wings as music brings
a softening, like liquefying gold,
while liberated hearts release, unfold
and settle in the nestledown of love.

Those trees still green, intensified by love
have blossomed from a radiance above,
an intimate display as dreams unfold,
revealing heart-shaped pendants hung on strings.
As copper turns to bronze with burnished gold,
a change in tempo the music brings

Autumnal notes in flight as passion brings
a harvesting of consummated love,
fulfilling every thought with bursts of gold ~
in song, in dance, alive on wings above.
A chorusing, a symphony for strings
as seasons turn once more, as moons unfold...

Such music brings fruition to unfold
a serenade of love, on air of strings ~
in praise to sun of gold, our light above.

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Kevin McKinney

Call It In The Air

"Hey! Can I ask something of you God?"
"What is it you want this time, Satan?"
"I need to know if I can buy some extra time."
"Buy... what would you use for money?"
"Hey, it's not my fault my wages are death!"
"Well I didn't write that; that one goes to the poets."

"How did you know I was pissed off at poets?"
"Think about it idiot, you're talking to God!"
"Oh... right, well I have some coin other than death."
"I know; other people's coin! Look here Satan,
As a poet once said, the root of all evil is money."
"That's why I'm pissed; they disrespect me all the time!"

"What makes you think you should get more time
So you can waste it tormenting poor poets?"
"Well they're always cracking wise about my money!
Besides, you should have it figured out God;
Poets make it too hard for me to do my job as Satan!
I need better bargaining chips than pain and death."

"So, you've noticed people aren't as scared of death
As they used to be, once upon a time."
"Hey, I'm your better half remember? As Satan,
I'm almost as sharp as you; according to those poets,
You and I are two sides of one coin so, as God,
You could sell me some time regardless of the money."

"Yes, we're polar opposites, but I have no interest in money;
And it wasn't me who started the bad press about death!
The poets got one wrong and put it in the mouth of God.
But they have more than made up for it over time;
No one paints more silver linings than poets!
One day they'll put a smiley face on you, Satan!"

"Heaven forbid! They imagine a world without Satan?"
"Some do, and they're some of the best for my money.
So chill out; that's an expression I got from the poets!"
"It's not fair! They've taken the sting out of death!"
"They've also priced you right out of the market for time!"

"Listen Satan, I'm only a God;
You keep your money. Truth is, no one controls time!
Just lay off my poets... I love 'em to death!"


Varietal Whine

Nothing ever changes here in heaven
Mulled the assistant to the guardian.
Not that it was hard work being an acolyte,
Though he had yet to learn to play the harp;
Everything's spelled out in the new manual,
Right down to the granting of wishes.

That must be it! It must be the wishes;
Either that or the food they serve in heaven;
He'd have to consult that manual,
Discreetly, of course, lest the guardian
Detect any angst or ask about the harp
Lessons she'd arranged for her acolyte.

It just would not do for an acolyte
To be concerned with fulfilling wishes
While being carefree about playing the harp!
The food was just awfully bland in heaven,
And he'd been wondering if the guardian
Knew of any recipes in the new manual.

There'd been only one in the old manual;
Ambrosia! And as long as he'd been her acolyte
He'd never even seen the guardian
Eat! So, he'd start by asking about wishes.
There was plenty of good will in heaven,
But if only an appetite were as common as a harp!

He tried to imagine dinner music on the harp,
But he couldn't stop thinking of the manual.
As luck would have it, things are slow in heaven;
It isn't all that hard for an acolyte
To look busy while imagining wishes
Right under the nose of a guardian!

He resolved to approach the guardian
With a deal; he'd finally learn to play the harp!
That was his offer; he would work for his wishes.
If she would let him check the new manual
For recipes, he would remain her faithful acolyte,
And his harp would ring throughout heaven!

"Of course," said the guardian, "This is heaven,"
"Put away your harp for now you silly acolyte!"
"Guardians must grant sincere wishes; says so in the new manual!"

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Kevin & Ryter


No more is it the time of magic, its now of men
Merlin and all his kin have left the stage and sleep
Slumbering in their caves awaiting until when
Once more they must emerge from sleep so deep
And once again in battle we will see the way
How the mighty kings must field and fight the fey

Yet even Merlin might not believe the fey
Irrationality displayed of modern men;
So cold and calculating in our way
He'd trade this new reality for sleep.
But human personality runs deep
With vestigial extensions to days when

Life was only a small matter of when
The axe would fall. And so it paid for fey
Prestidigitation to run as deep,
With artificial order over men;
The way a serpent lulls a bird to sleep,
And pauses only briefly on its way.

But magic was always the hidden way.
And so often takes place, when
Heroes and warriors need to sleep,
So made judgements against the fey,
Saying that it was not the way of men,
Acting from fears that were buried deep.

We know that nothing is buried so deep
That logic will not find some way
To bring the balance back so that men
Can meet on equal footing when
Muscle and mind will be equal with fey
And at night heroes may find restful sleep.

Yet now the edge of night does threaten sleep
With razor thin incisions scarring deep
And severing that balance 'tween the fey
Wonder workers and those of logic's way.
Lest it be restored, time may soon come when
Neither magic, nor logic can save men.

Arise then, from sleep and awaken all men
To dreams so deep they continue yet when
What once was fey, again may light the way.

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Ryter Roethicle

Sestina for All Hallows

The Moon is full, now hear them cry,
Beware the beasts beware their bite.
Now hear the ghosts, their moaning sigh,
As hellish creatures fill up the night.
Soft padding sounds are coming nigh,
There is every reason for your fright.

The Werewolf will give the bravest, fright.
Even the most evil beastie fears his cry.
They dread each time the full moon is nigh
Fearing even the slightest bite,
For he is the Evil Ones creature of the night,
And as the moon wanes all can breathe a sigh.

Dracula has made beautiful ladies sigh,
With passionate love replacing fright.
But itís only on a full mooned night,
That you will hear the damnedsels cry,
Lustfully pleading for another bite,
Or wishing that he were nigh.

Its when all hallows is drawing nigh,
That witches and warlocks give a sigh.
They know how to avoid Draculís bite,
And the werewolf never gives them fright.
Instead in drunken debauch they will cry
As they drink and revel through the night

But the human must take care this night,
For when are seen revellers drawing nigh,
Be wary when they give out their cry.
Donít with relief give a pleasured sigh,
Instead believe it is a time for fright,
And best beware the shape shifters bite.

Too late now as you feel the bite,
Evil forms will take oíer the night.
Your muscles tensing out of fright,
Eternal damnation draws you nigh.
You were warned, you gave a sigh,
Soon it will be your turn to cry.

Theyíve had a bite, and giving out a cry
Vanish into the night and all can sigh
No need for fright as the sun is nigh.


She comes deliciously after wine

She comes deliciously after wine,
See her peace, see her serenity.
Lying in the afterglow of love
And with the beauty of that glow
I watch, see her sleep, content
Knowing that evermore she is mine.

How dare I say she is mine?
I know she is tastier than any wine
And in that I am well content
To help create her serenity
And see her in the afterglow
That has been created by our love.

How do I know she is my love?
So many ways tell me she is mine,
See her eyes and see them glow,
That look is headier than any wine.
See her smile, see her serenity.
Her touch tells me she is content.

And knowing that she is content,
Only makes for my stronger love.
I will help maintain her serenity,
Forever more I'll make her mine.
She will come deliciously after wine
And I will bathe in her afterglow.

A life of creating this glow
A life of making her content
She came deliciously after wine.
With the gift of making love
And sharing her life with mine
Gave me a lifetime of serenity.

Her look shows me her serenity
Radiance greater than the suns glow
She looks and says she is mine.
She smiles and says she is content
To share an eternity of love
As I take another sip of wine.

I drink my wine in the afterglow
Her serenity, peace and content
Half of the love we share is mine.


Winter Love

Winters black cloak now covers the land,
Spreading her fingers and freezing life.
Nature's colours are hidden from minds,
Withdrawn, sleeping from winters strife.
All around is bleak, leafless and bare,
And their love is sheltered, safe from harm.

Outside winter rages with hail-stones harm,
Inside soft candle-light and a log fires land.
Soft conversations laying emotions bare,
Music's soft, sensuous rhythms fill with life.
Each tightly holding, kissing, far from strife,
Being close together, even touching minds.

But love is more than two sharing minds,
And in that sharing there can be no harm.
Nor can love intentionally cause strife,
Instead warmth will cover all their land,
And those lovers will choose to share life,
Laying aside themselves, leaving ego's bare.

It is only when we can lay ourselves bare,
And truly join spirits as well as minds,
That two lovers can begin to share a life.
In this way they will come to no harm,
And enter into an eternal promised land,
That will contain freedom from strife.

What is love if there is no strife,
And must we be completely bare?
Is there such a place as Never-Land,
And must we share all of our minds?
Will secret opinions really cause harm,
And completely wreck our eternal life?

Such questions are the meaning of life,
For where there is love there is also strife.
We do wrong at times protecting from harm,
And sometimes hidden is better than bare.
Men and women have far different minds,
All the better for two share their land.

There is no life, there is no land,
Where there is not strife, or different minds
True love offers harm, when emotions are bare.

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Newell Elsworth Usher

Making my day

What a beautiful day it is today
as the sun starts to rise over my trees.
Birds are singing sweetly looking for worms.
A rabbit hops quickly across my lawn
over pretty flowers looking for food
a squirrel digs shallow; buries a nut.

And another squirrel picks up a nut
as all nature thrives, smiles, alive today
hurrying, scurrying looking for food
on the ground, in the air growing on trees
and little birds are looking in my lawn
looking for grass seed and fresh morning worms.

As yesterday's rain brought up some new worms
I see one crawl over the squirrel's nut
there by the fence post aligning my lawn.
Beautiful music is playing today
as the wind blows the leaves softly through trees.
all nature dances to the gait of food

Ev'rything feeds and is another's food
as the owls eat rabbits; birds eat the worms
all watched by the many eyes of the trees.
A little squirrel eats a tiny nut
and ev'rything is beautiful today
as dawn has passed and sun is on my lawn.

And as I walk around to view my lawn
I remember that I too must have food
and so I pick some apples for today
a looking for small holes of little worms
as I will make desert with a small nut
from honey and some apples from my trees.

And as I sing along amidst my trees
I see a little fawn upon my lawn
watching two squirrels fight for a big nut
as he is also searching for some food
as little birds now see the little worms
and all of nature dines again, today

Today is wonderful across my lawn.
Trees surround and animals find much food
worms eating fruit and looking for a nut,

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