Sestina: The surprise of a lifetime

In an attempt to regain balance I almost
Lost all control. The evening before I sat in my study
Thinking of what I could do different and love
More than my present occupation. My feet
Twitched below the desk in fervent prayer or doubt,
Either way I was beginning to kindle a soul-scorching fire.

On a blank sheet of paper I started to fire
Off ideas. I drew arrows and boxes for words that almost
Made sense but such mind-maps would make others doubt
My sanity and question my logic. They’d say, “Why’d you study
All these years just to throw your life away? The world’s at your feet
And you choose to kick it! You are misguided my love.”

But I am not guided by anything except my love
For a challenge. Why am I in the line of fire
When it is you who should be blamed for the shackles on my feet?
Why should I answer to you when you almost
Made certain that I would not question the purpose of any study?
No sir, I’ll answer only to myself when in doubt.

With righteous indignation I was charting without a doubt
In royal blue ink that makes angry words less stark. It was a love-
Soaked rendering of the mind that would need study
In the better light of reason someday. The night grew in the cold fire
Of electric bulbs and I pondered dreams that have lasted almost
An entire lifetime without my knowledge. I felt numbness at my feet

That soon spread up. I switched to verses to find within their feet
A rhythm by which I could greet daylight. There was no doubt
That those poems suffered as I suffered, but their magnetism almost
Straightened the compass that had led to my disorientation. I was in love
With two things seemingly different but when purified by the fire
Of a philosophical torch they were two theses for the same study.

I wished to have one eye of science and another of art to study
Life in all its regulated nuance and irrational feat
Of fancy. The morning dawned with this realization and soon the fire
Of heavens commanded the skies promptly. It made me wish for a doubt-
-less existence, where I could wake each day to a destined love;
One where I will get by without saying, “Everything’s good, almost.”

I decided to share this with them, those people who almost
could not fathom change. It surprised me to find no rebuke, instead only love
And it became apparent that I had always been in control of their doubt.


This poem is a rough first attempt at writing a Sestina. The form requires 39 lines divided into 6 six-line stanzas and 1 three-line Envoy. Every line in the Sestina has a precise word ending. The order of the word-endings in each stanza are: 123456  615243  364125  532614  451362  246531  531/135.

This was tougher than the villanelle that I wrote a few days back. Linked verses are hard work!

Image Credit: NASA from (CC BY-NC 2.0)

38 thoughts on “Sestina: The surprise of a lifetime

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  1. Congratulations! To write a sestina is hard work. I haven’t tried it yet. For me the hardest was Chant Royal; it’s in my book, never posted on my blog. It consists of five 11-line stanzas and en envoy of 5 lines and it follows a rhyming scheme. Cheers 🙂 Irina

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Irina. It’s still very rough and the lines are too prose-y but it is my first attempt. I hope to get better with practice. 🙂
      A Chant Royal! WOW! That’s something I’d aspire to. Was it also in meter?
      I’m new to formal poetry and still getting used to hearing and feeling meter. It’s all very exciting! Cheers 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        The Chant Royal is a poetic form that is a variation of the ballad form and consists of five eleven-line stanzas with a rhyme scheme a-b-a-b-c-c-d-d-e-d-E and a five-line envoi rhyming d-d-e-d-E or a seven-line envoi c-c-d-d-e-d-E. To add to the complexity, no rhyming word is used twice[1][2] It was introduced into French poetry in the 15th century by Christine de Pizan and Charles d’Orléans and was introduced into England towards the end of the 19th century as part of a general revival of interest in French poetic forms. The complexity of the form caused William Caswell Jones to describe it as “impractical” for common use [2] The Chant Royal was the most complicated form of poetry in Northern France during the 15th century, though not as complex as the sestina, which was more popular in Southern France. [1] The form was often used for stately, or heroic subjects.

        As you can see, Sam, the sestina is considered even more difficult. You asked about meter. Yes, it follows the ballad meter of four to five stressed syllables. I don’t think I’ll ever write another chant royal, but you never know!
        Cheers 🙂 Irina

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow! Thank you for sharing that. I knew the rhyme scheme for the Chant Royal but didn’t know about its history.
        I think a traditional sestina (in pentameter) would be more difficult than a Chant Royal but I used free verse so it is easier than the Chant form in one sense. I am still getting used to rhyming with meter! This would a great form to try to push my limits 🙂 Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your writing is amazing! Where do you go inside to come up with these words?! The images in your phrases are outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. 🙂 I am new to writing creatively (on such a scale at least) and it’s very encouraging to read your comment. I am working hard to improving my imagist skills. Looks like I am on the right track. 🙂


  3. Wow !!!! 🙂 😀 U’re an amazing writer !! :’) I aspire to become a writer like you!! :’) I, too, have a passion for writing poems !! 😀 Hope I become a talented writer (of short stories,novels) and poet like you, one day!! ^_^

    #TalentedYou! #Inspiration #KeepItUp ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The poem appears choppy because longer lines are cut up by the site format. Sadly I can’t do anything about that. Yes, I need to improve my syntax and hope that it improves as I become more comfortable with the form.
      Thank you for the kind words Santosh. I appreciate it a lot 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Impressive…and learning a lot from your writing Sam. I have always loved English Literature and creative writing but poetry was never my forte even though I love reading poems. On Saturday I actually purchased The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy, she is probably not everyone’s cup of tea but I am enjoying her take on those famous characters.Keep your poems coming Sam as you’re my inspiration at the moment to revisit poetry and give it a chance 🙂 One thing though forget about reading a Sestina or Villanelle from me…it ain’t gonna happen cos I ain’t that fetch! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! Give it time Jini and I am sure you’ll be able to spin some linked verses. 🙂
      It makes me so happy to hear that my modest offerings are inspiring you. I would have never imagined that outcome for my writing.
      PS: Thanks for the book tip. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The realisation surprised me because I would have bet, before I attempted these forms, that sestinas would be easier given how they could be in free verse and they provide so much room for an idea to develop. Nope. Sestinas are a whirlpool where intentions drown easily.
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I feel great now. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Vee 🙂
        My instructor advised us to choose our six words carefully. They should be open to different usages. Maybe even have a homophone.
        I started with six random words with which I wrote the first stanza to get the order and then worked my way through the form. It’s hard! I think what would be easier is to have an inspiration that would fit this form, have six words related to that inspiration and then write. Next time perhaps 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Good job. Sestinas are the hardest for me, but the most rewarding also when you finally make all the pieces fit together. You had a good message too – made it a cool read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sreejit. I was happy to be done with it. I wrote it to try out the form and I realised that a sestina needs the right subject. Otherwise you just end up going nowhere. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it.


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