Sestinas

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A sestina is a poem that uses six stanzas of six lines each, with the end words in each line repeating in a specific pattern throughout the poem… Poets often write sestinas when they want to tackle topics involving obsession. When you land on the right topic, you render a haunting experience, the kind of feeling and worry that’s very hard to talk about in regular conversation.

A sestina uses six different words as the end words for the lines in each stanza. But, each stanza uses the end words in a different pattern. All the lines in the poem end with one of those words. The order is dictated by the recipe:

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

FINAL STANZA

AB
CD
EF

— The Practice of Creative Writing, Heather Sellars

Here are two of the sestinas produced by GCAA writers:

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Fight

She got dreads, Marnese
I sent her dreads flying
But she hit
me first. A crowd
gathered, Mr. Tanagucci
got in between and I cried, I finna…

Get you, I finna…
A scratched up pig, Marnese
A scared mouse, Mr. Tanagucci
Fists, desks, all flying
Just standing there watching, the crowd
Another hit

Her anger hit
me like a tsunami; I said I finna…
slap, punch, strike, crowd
around me and Marnese
I wanted to fly
away, and leave Tanagucci

I’ve lost control, thought Tanagucci
The realization hit
him like my fist in Marnese’s face; I’m finna…
I’m finna…
She repeated, that crazy hot-headed Marnese
Always draws a crowd

Nike, Hollister, Abercrombie, the crowd
crying, We finna…
get help! But Marnese
wouldn’t stop hitting
Crowd crying, We finna…
Weaves flying

Flying
to the bathroom, but the crowd
wouldn’t let me out — finna
run away from Mr. Tanagucci
It still hasn’t hit
me that I’m going to get suspended, Marnese!

Marnese, once my best friend, now fists flying
Hitting me in front of a crowd
Mr. Tanagucci finna…

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Self-Conscious

A group of girls crowd around there
in the halls. Effortlessly pretty.
Never needing to look in the mirror.
Girlish snickers as I go past. Hurts
my self esteem slowly drooping like the curls in my hair.
Balling my hands in the sleeves of my shirt wishing I bought a bigger size

A larger shirt to hide my size
away in the cotton fabric. Hiding their
laughs in the back of my mind. Hair
falls back as my head raises. Pretty
is just an adjective. When you are not called hurts
Tears glisten my cheeks as I stare in the mirror.

I can no longer recognize the girl in the mirror
Her tears are now a larger size
Everything around her hurts
her heart. They walk past her. Their
laughter echoes in her head. Pretty
is unachievable. Her hands grip her hair

Blades flick around her hair
She stares at her makeup stained face in the mirror.
She doesn’t look pretty
Her body is too large of a size
She just stands there
in front of the mirror. It hurts

to watch as she hurts
It hurts to see the hair
on the floor, laying there
lifeless in front of the mirror
There’s nothing of size
to hide her hurt of not being pretty.

Now she is pretty
As it no longer hurts
Her tomb is a larger size
She’s as lifeless as her hair
She no longer looks in the mirror
She lays there.

The flowers there around her are pretty
Broken glass of the mirror no longer hurts.
She no longer worries about hair or being the perfect size.

 

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