A sestina is a type of poem that follows a specific structure and pattern. It consists of six stanzas, each with six lines, followed by a final three-line stanza called an envoi or tercet.
The unique feature of a sestina is its intricate repetition of end words throughout the poem. In a sestina, the end words of the first stanza’s lines are repeated in a specific pattern in the subsequent stanzas, rotating in a set sequence.
This creates a complex interweaving of words and themes throughout the poem. The structure of a sestina challenges the poet to explore variations in meaning and expression while adhering to the strict repetition of words.
It often requires careful planning and craftsmanship to maintain coherence and fluidity within the poem. Sestinas can cover a wide range of subjects and themes, from personal experiences to philosophical reflections, and they offer poets a unique opportunity to experiment with language and form.
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 marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house….
A sestina consists of six six-line stanzas followed by one three-line stanza.
The sestina is composed of six stanzas of six lines (sixains), followed by a stanza of three lines (a tercet)
The sestina is a poem of thirty-nine lines, divided into six stanzas of six lines each, plus a terminal envoy of three lines.
A sestina lets a poet go Gothic.
The sestina was invented by the Provençal troubadour Arnaut Daniel and was used in Italy by Dante and Petrarch.