How To Write a Sestina

How To Write a Sestina

It is fun and easy to write a sestina. There are two sestinas in Poems for the Journey: ‘Waves,’ p.11 and ‘Diamonds and Sutras, ’p.15.

The sestina form allows the poet to get lines up on the screen and then play around with the words that come before the end word in every line. During a period of ‘writer’s block,’ a sestina can help writers have something to work with.

It is fun and easy to write a sestina and the form allows the poet to put something up on the computer screen and play with the words. In a time of writer’s block a sestina can sometimes help the writer have something to work with.

Sestina is a verse form with six unrhymed sestets (six line stanzas), each with the same set of final words arranged in different order. The sestina concludes with a three-line stanza that incorporates all six repeated words.

Choose six words with energy for you. Two or three of the words will have less energy than the other words and that is good. Once you have written the first stanza you are on your way.

You can either mix up the six words in each stanza or follow this form.

1 st stanza: 123456
2 nd stanza: 615243
3 rd stanza: 364125
4 th stanza: 532614
5 th stanza: 451362
6 th stanza: 246531

Write a final three line stanza with one of the core words in the middle of each line and another at the end. Read my poem, Diamonds and Sutras which is an example of a sestina.

The Way Things Are Is Large

The Way Things Are Is Large

The way things are is large, too wonderful to understand.
Love teaches by story, portrays our needs.
But what is it that makes us human?

Story tells of a garden, suggests a plan.
We learn which are flowers, are warned of weeds.
The way things are is large, too wonderful to understand

We hear more stories, the collection is grand,
tales of flood and drought, of gift and greed.
But what is it that makes us human?

With myriad creatures, we share the land.
In hopes and hungers we seek what we need.
The way things are is large, too wonderful to understand.

The garden is a mix of loam, weeds and sand.
From above come sun, rain and seeds.
But what is it that makes us human?

One story says a time will come for outstretched hands,
a part of the path where we follow another’s lead.
The way things are is large, too wonderful to understand.
But what is it that makes us human?

The Mexican Jaguar

The Mexican Jaguar

Early in our days in Sonora
I went with my husband to a field camp
by jeep. Then bony backed mules.
The eight Mexicans there were shy as
we said Buenos días to each other.
Next morning they answered my Buenos días
with Buenos días le dé Dios.
It became like that.
I stayed in camp all day.
They went out to hammer rocks in
country known as baranca –
place of broken boulders.

My husband and I slept that night
in the small cook shack cabin.
The Mexicans in sleeping bags
circled close round the fire.
Next morning fear was in the camp.

Talk was in rapid nervous Spanish.
We heard gato – cat and pero – dog
and a word we did not know — Onca.
The Mexicans said I must not be left alone.
Our Spanish was not good
in those early days in Mexico.
We thought gato would be a lynx.

That night the Mexicans stayed up late talking.
In the morning the second dog was gone.
In spite of anxious warnings from the Mexicans
I stayed in camp reading by the river.
After lunch — to the relief of the Mexicans —
my husband and I went back to our town
by bony backed mules and jeep.

Years later– in Tucson’s Desert Museum —
we saw a sign saying Onca.
We turned a corner towards it — then
suddenly faced a brown, black and gold
Painted Jaguar —
huge and confident looking.
I felt my full foolishness.

The Mexicans in that long ago camp —
wanted me safe – in spite of myself.
They were my blessing.

Christina Watkins

One Snowy Day in South Porcupine, Ontario, 1975

One Snowy Day in South Porcupine, Ontario, 1975

Here is a poem I recently wrote in January. I hope you will enjoy it. It’s called “One Snowy Day in South Porcupine, Ontario, 1975”

I cross country skied in South Porcupine
when eyelashes clumped white from the cold.
At 3 o’clock the babysitter mercifully arrived
and stayed till night began to fall around four.
In colorful breathable light layers of clothes
I skied across the road and field into
woods that stretched all the way up to James Bay.

After a property dispute about sharing toys
I was weary – winter was long.
I skied fast – so lost in the thought that
I failed to notice the snow beginning to fall.
I saw my covered tracks. I was lost.
Light was slant as I skied past trees I didn’t know —
circling – passing the same ones again and again.

Then there was a shift in my vision into light.
Hope sprang up deep and wide.
I hear the sounds of teenagers talking.
As I cried and laughed I skied towards them.

From that road where we lived — after
night had fully fallen — we sometimes
saw the glorious dancing Aurora Borealis,
the northern lights.

Is there something about light dancing
that leads us back to inner times
when light has broken us open?

There is an Opening

There is an Opening

Not far from San Sebastian we visited the B&B that was once the hacienda of actor-director John Huston. On the property there were remnants of an abandoned silver mine and remnants of the swimming pool John Huston had built for Elizabeth Taylor who visited there with Richard Burton in the 1960s. I took this photo of the doorway from the exterior to an interior upstairs in the hacienda.

‘There is an Opening’

There is an opening, a door.
When I see it I may pass through
to where the more is more.
Disguises tumble to the floor
uncovering light I’m looking for.