Sestina, a poetic form

Underneath my desk there’s a sort of hidden from the eye small bookshelf were I’ve smuggled away my writing magazines. The other day, haven’t checked them out in a long time, I took one out randomly just for the fun of it thinking I might find something new from pages I’ve browsed many times. Indeed I did!

On page 15 of the Writer’s Digest from May/June 2010, I found a poetic challenge based on a sestina. I’ve never heard of this type of poetic form. That only meant one thing, Research! Love doing research, is like an adventure for the mind.

So on to the internet world I went.

A bit of history from the cyber world

The archives of the cyber world Poetry Foundation, defines the sestina as “A complex French verse form, usually unrhymed, consisting of six stanzas of six lines each and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in a different order as end words in each of the subsequent five stanzas; the closing envoy contains all six words, two per line, placed in the middle and at the end of the three lines. The patterns of word repetition are as follows, with each number representing the final word of a line, and each row of numbers representing a stanza:

1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)

At The American Scholar, the archives state it dates “back to the Middle Ages”. While the book “A History of French Versification”, page 282, indicates that “the sestina was imported into France in the sixteenth century from Italy were it had been cultivated by Dante, Petrarch, Firenzoula, Sannazaro, Tasso and other poets.” But the first French to try it was Portus de Tyrant.

historyoffrenchv00kastuoft_0308

On the other hand, the essay Sestina making reference to “The Making of a Poem”, states “the inventor of the sestina, Arnaut Daniel, belonged to a group of twelfth-century poets–the troubadours” who appeared “in southern France in the twelfth century. Their name is most certainly extracted from the verb trobar–meaning “to invent or compose verse”. They sang–their poems.” The “difficult complex style was called the trobar clus. The sestina was part of the trobar clus.  It was the form for a master troubadour.”

Now we know, let’s read an example

Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop (taken from Poem Hunter)

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.

My other favorite is the poem “The Painter” by Jonh Ashbery, which you can read at the Poetry Foundation.

Here’s my rendition

Taking upon the scary task has been long and arduous (a three day endeavor), but exciting. Here are my chosen words, which I got from Sestinas: browse or built your own in order not to go crazy in choosing ones:

1 forest
2 rain
3 people
4 river
5 animal
6 branch

Remember the stanza?

1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)

My Sestina: 

The animal of the forest

The air, heavy with humidity, smelled fresh in the forest.
We were engulfed by walls of green wet by morning rain.
Scattered, stood leisure pavilions for people.
Flowing elegantly and inviting was the river,
the artery that feeds life to every single plant and animal.
A bird of gray plumage sang from a distant branch.

What would I give to stay in placid state on that branch!
To explore the beating heart that is this forest
to my country. Must I become an animal
of its fauna? A leaf to be caressed by rain?
A drop of water in its major vein, the river?
Oh, but I can’t change my nature, being part of the people!

Enjoy the smell, the peace and beauty, my people!
The shadow upon you created by every single branch.
The clear refreshing liquid of the river
that calls you to bathe as an hypnotic chant of the forest.
Dance an areyto like the Taino did under the rain.
Sleep underneath the black canopy as would an animal.

It is not a keeper, the animal,
but a resident. So it comes to us, the people,
who enjoy the richness of every drop of rain,
who should become an extended branch
in the world beyond this majestic living forest,
who should bestow life, as life is bestow upon it by the river.

Do you hear the hypotonic chant of the river?
Don’t you feel the peace of the animal
of gray plumage as it sings proudly to the forest?
Close your eyes and breathe it in, my people!
Climb the trunk and stand on the branch.
Be reborn by the blessed waters of the rain.

Your selfishness watched away by the rain
have flowed down the currents of the river.
The shadow, look, now you’re part of the branch.
You’re no longer an inhuman, an animal.
Enjoy the smell, the peace and beauty, my people!
Be engulfed by the green walls of the forest.

On a distant branch wet by rain;
in a forest that lived for a river;
there was an animal, who was part of the people.

Your turn

It’s a bit daunting the task of composing a Sestina, but a challenge you should take upon. Why? For the fun of it, for the love of creating, for the love of writing… But mainly for passion. We must embark at times in untraveled waters to help our creativity grow and expand. Is an adventure where we step away from our comfort zone. Chose your six words and create a sestina. Happy writings!

Poesý 2014 presents Bernice Sosa’s for real this time

Here’s a second from Bernice, a powerful poem. image

for real this time

like keyboards replacing pens
screens replace lined canvas
now decorated in vibrant hues of positive vibes, anticipations and barriers broken
no longer smeared by random thoughts, heartbreaks and unfulfilled dreams.
the new organized chaos.
scattered visions float like unpieced puzzles
reuniting magnetically
authentic God sent reverie.
the forces have aligned,
spirit has been revived, eagerly anticipating the next trail
she’ll tag with syllabic tongue prints
agonizingly contorting minds 
making them wish they were double-jointed.
no longer suffocated by the panic
she’s modified her manipulation of thought.
they can’t get you if it really don’t faze you,
impenetrable barricade
negated conquest not no matter how hard they try.
no longer necessary to look to the sky for approval and acceptance
as it now lives in her, on her, through her.
she has been humbled, once again,
by HIS welcoming arms opened as wide as the first time she sought HIM
17 years back.
she’s reminded that HIS gift is food for the soul to be digested and absorbed
not wasting on her as it has been for way too long.
finally returning to the connection of her soul’s roots
with Zen-like serenity
naturally high
she writes sans a puff, sans a swig
soul in spread eagle vulnerable beyond cognition
never felt so good,
so powerful,
so secure.

All rights reserved by Bernice Sosa

Poesý 2014 presents Bernice Sosa’ Consejos Divinos

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Photo by Sandra Guzmán

Bernice Sosa is a Nuyorican writer, educator, linguist and mother of two. She has contributed work in the past to Poesý 2010 and Poesý 2012, Pa’lante Latino and Letras II (an online literary publication at NY Hunter College’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies), and the first virtual and live stream coverage of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade 2014 .  She has also had the opportunity to share her words at the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café, Capicu Poetry and Cultural Showcase in Brooklyn, NY and the First Annual New York Poetry Festival (NYPF). Sosa is currently on hiatus from online publishing and is working on her first book.

Here is her poem for our Fantasy Theme, enjoy.

Consejos Divino

¿Quienes son ustedes?
Por un buen rato, han perdido la fe.
Hija de Dios,
empezaron a creer que nunca nos iba a regresar.
He tenido que luchar más fuerte por ti.

Disculpe, es que mi vida…
Pero ya el no está, y tu lista para escuchar.
Te he dado por respetar, por más que te haya costado.
Miedo, vergüenza, secretos derretidos.
La libertad cura almas heridas.

Tu equipo celestial te guarda
Sigue recibiendo nuestros besitos de mariposa:
estampas de amor lloviendo
en huellas alumbradas
colocada en tu rostro
silenciosamente, mientras suenas.
Alma consiente, alma despierta.

…gracias a todos.
Ya no te encuentres arrodillada en el suelo
en posición de vientre, gritando ” ¿Por qué “,
tras ríos de llanto
buscando relleno para tu supuesta vacío.

Ya no te encaracole
muda, con agonía.
Ni paralizada, destrozada con alma esclavizada.
Ahora alas sabio, obedientemente, esperan nuestra instrucción,
lista para navegar.

Dale y remonta el vuelo y brilla sin miedo, Mechita.

All rights reserved by Bernice Sosa

Poesý 2014 presents Rich Villar’s Headstones

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A second taste on Rich Villar’s poetry: “Headstones” is an elegy for my sister and the boys and girls that my family and I found buried alongside her, too young, at a cemetery in New Jersey in 2007.

Headstones

East Ridgelawn Cemetery
Passaic, New Jersey, April 2007.

Pop is reading headstones.  

Catechism rises in him
from somewhere long buried.

The litany of saints inside his cheek:

José Medina.
Jorge Antonio González. Marisol Vélez.

He stops and reads
one black slab adorned
with the Dominican flag.

Angel Luis Gutierrez.  1987-2006.

He says it out loud: nineteen.  

Something says to mark this.

His exhale is five hundred years.  

We came to mark the anniversary
of my sister’s death. Lillies, a white planter.
A tulip bulb. Ten smooth stones in a circle.
Now we stand on freshly turned earth, reciting
the names of boys and girls who should be home,

home. Right now, tasting soup,eyes closing at the sudden sun,
or remembering last night’s kissed lips,
running and not running, making a mess.

Three grandchildren make noise in the cemetery.
We leave stones to mark our presence.
A groundskeeper waits to clear them away.

All rights reserved by Rich Villar

Poesý 2014 presents Rich Villar’ Conversations with Julia

Rich Villar is the author of COMPREHENDING FOREVER (Willow Books, 2014). He has been quoted on Latino literature and culture by both The New York Times and the Daily News, and his poetry and essays have appeared in such journals as Black Renaissance Noire, Hanging Loose, and Union Station. His poem, “Conversations with Julia,” for our fantasy theme, is an imagined conversation between the poet and Julia de Burgos.
image

Conversation with Julia

You colored the air green with the rain in my hair,
drew blue dancers beneath each puff of steam. 

¿y dices que no eres poeta?

Do you know poets who sell insurance policies? 

los poetas mueren joven con los vendedores. piensalo bien

Did it hurt when they cut your legs off? 

hacen años me cortáron las piernas. 
ten cuida’o que no te hagan igual.

Did you mean to reference bochinche
when you held the torch to your effigy? 

cuéntame otra vez de los flamboyanes
que tus ojos no han visto. 

Julia, you will not be dead until they elect
the Puerto Rican President of the United States. 

viviré cuando eligen
un presidente puertorriqueño de puerto rico.

How do you write a love poem? 

dime del colibrí volando al lado de tú papa
.

How do undress a woman? 

comprale su vestida verde

Is this the street you died on, Julia? 

yo nací en las bocas de tus hermanas,
en las tumbas de los dictadores
.

All rights reserved by Rich Villar

Poesý 2014 presents Michael Muller’s In It For The Haul

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A second tasting of Michael Muller’s poetry which is a plea for hope. Enjoy!

In It For The Haul

Feeling tired and
exhausted after
working along day
having taught my
students.

It is not my students
that exhaust me
they actually inspire
my mind to come
alive.

What is most exhausting
is seeing and hearing
from the many who
think that all is
lost.

So many just let
life get the best of
them as if THEIR best
is in the long gone
past.

So many let issues
of long past events
dwell as if 
they still have
significance.

So many let issues
linger due to
their own
arrogance
so many lay guilt
of simple
circumstance
blind to seeing the real
truth of others innocence
while the true problem lies
in their own
ignorance
caused by self denial
of their own irrelevance!
Inspiration let me
fly
let the toxic past
die
so that my future dreams will
thrive
let only treasured lights
survive!

All rights reserved by Michael Muller

Poesý 2014 presents Michael Muller’s Destiny’s Flow Redeemed

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Michael Muller,  age 45, is a Venezuelan American poet from New York and band director at South Lewis Central School. I encourage you to visit his blog where you can find some of his works, http://www.migueltio.wordpress.com.  Also at http://www.facebook.com/michael.muller.5074644/notes.

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Here is his poem for our Fantasy Theme!

“Destiny’s Flow Redeemed”

Gentle rains falling
over the river Styx
at a time late at night
as the ferryman awaits.

The ferryman paid
with gold pesetas
waves open the gate
as the passenger awaits.

The passenger enters
the downtrodden ferry
beginning a dreary journey
as Hades awaits.

Hades desires another
soul to live eternally
across The River Styx
whose current never waits.

The current begins
to change direction away
from the underworld toward
the rock where destiny awaits.

Destiny moves forward
as the ferry flows
toward the rock
where seven pixies await.

Seven beautiful pixies
desire to possess the oncoming
passenger as their
combined energies await.

Seven energies strong
project a light that
stops the rain
as their hearts dearly await.

Seven hearts beating
as pixies now enter the ferry
escorting the passenger
to where passion awaits.

Passion ignites fusion
of love between pixies
and a passenger revived whose
underworld destiny no longer awaits.

Meanwhile the ferryman
returns to accepting
payments of those whom Hades again
so hopefully awaits.

All rights reserved by Michael Muller

Poesý 20/10 Ed. August 2014: Fantasy Poetry

It’s Poesý 20/10 season again!

Welcome back, friends, to Poesý’s August 2014 Edition. The theme for this year is Fantastic (or fantasy) Poetry and we have three great poets who took the challenge and wrote amazing poetry inspired by our Fantasy Theme. Poesý is welcoming back Michael Muller and Bernice Sosa, and new comer to our event Rich Villar. You will learn more about them during the event that starts tomorrow. On the first day, you’ll read their Fantasy poem and on the second, a free theme one.

An introduction to Fantastic Poetry is at hand, which has been part of our literature for the longest time. It is part of the genre of Speculative poetry, which “focusses on fantastic, science fictional and mythological themes. It is also known as science fiction poetry or fantastic poetry. It is distinguished from other poetic genres by being categorized by its subject matter, rather than by the poetry’s form. Suzette Haden Elgin defined the genre as about a reality that is in some way different from the existing reality (Wikipeida)”.

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Here are two examples of this genre, so you can get a sense of it.

J. R. R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors, he also was a poet and you may find some of his Fantasy Poetry in his books. This one is so beautiful and has a serene flow to it:

Journey’s End

In western lands beneath the Sun
The flowers may rise in Spring,
The trees may bud, the waters run,
The merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night,
And swaying branches bear
The Elven-stars as jewels white
Amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey’s end I lie
In darkness buried deep,
Beyond all towers strong and high,
Beyond all mountains steep,
Above all shadows rides the Sun
And Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.


– See more at: http://allpoetry.com/

This second one is from William Allingham and it has a Gothic style, still is considered fantastic.

The Witch-Bride

A fair witch crept to a young man’s side,
And he kiss’d her and took her for his bride.

But a Shape came in at the dead of night,
And fill’d the room with snowy light.

And he saw how in his arms there lay
A thing more frightful than mouth may say.

And he rose in haste, and follow’d the Shape
Till morning crown’d an eastern cape.

And he girded himself, and follow’d still,
When sunset sainted the western hill.

But, mocking and thwarting, clung to his side,
Weary day! – the foul Witch-Bride.

See more at poemsofthefantastic.com

Hope you enjoy this season of Poesy 20/10 August 2014 Fantastic Poetry and don’t forget to share it with your friends and social media. Thanks for joining us! And remember from inspiration to the written word.

A. R. Román

Poesý 20/10: Agradecida

Ha sido un gran honor contar con la magnífica participación de talentosos poetas, que nos deleitaron con su cautivadora poesía, en la tercera entrega de Poesý 20/10™ Ed. 2012. Su perspicaz manipulación para con la letra escrita brindó a la palabra Raíces, la raíz de su inspiración para este año, una variedad de expresiones que nos llevaron a sentir el orgullo familiar, la declaración del yo y la femeneidad, gritos de guerra para con la historia y la cultura, nuestra génetica, apariencia física, el orgullo poético, y la sensualidad.

¡Clap, clap, clap! Le doy un fuerte aplauso a ellos que han dejado por siempre su raíz en Poesý 20/10™: Karimé Nabté, Bernice Sosa-Izquierdo, Mia Román, Marlyn Cruz-Centeno, Benigno Lorenzo y Víctor Lorenzo, Deborah Milagros y Maité Reyes, Enrique Jiménez y Zamanta de Jesús, Mara Mariposa y Susi de la Torre,  Irma Zermeño y Pedro Manterola, y Jorge O. Torres.

A ustedes, mis queridos lectores, gracias por pasar por Mink y apoyar a Poesý 20/10™ Ed. 2012.

¡Hasta la próxima edición de Poesý 20/10™ Ed. 2012! Un abrazo fuerte y ahora me retiro para continuar con mi historia de fantasía “Ascensión Divina”.

A.R. de Hernández

Jorge O. Torres: “Tiernas impresiones” e “Inventario” / Lloréns Torres, poeta puertorriqueño

 Ingeniero y Poeta Colombiano, que desde temprana edad encontró en las letras el lienzo que conduciría la expresión en un estilo marcadamente contemporáneo. Jorge, que nunca se apartó de la poesía en el transcurso de sus estudios universitarios, fue consolidando su literatura en varios libros de poemas que anuncian la creación de un lenguaje poético, con un permanente ejercicio de habilidad verbal y que determina la expresión como una experiencia en el entorno de la palabra. En los últimos años, a plasmado su estructura fundamental, su concepto, a través de los cuales se manifiestan diversos caracteres e influencias poéticas, en la visión del trópico de la fuerza amorosa, densa, febril, alucinada del romanticismo humano. Jorge, que actualmente reside en la capital Colombiana, junto con su familia, ejerce su profesión de ingeniero permanentemente sin que esto desvíe el constante enriquecimiento literario.


Tiernas imprecisiones

Que es aquello que gira, alucina
y avanza como escritura en mis sienes,

pero que es aquello que venero con
golpes de viento,
con la hora apacible,
fantástica…

acaso fuera éste el atajo sobre la niebla
pues alma mía me conmueves,
me devoras de palabras,
desarrollas el poema de mis revoluciones,
en música y discurso
en olor a pensamientos numerosos
como si la piel alcanzara tu risa para vestir
mi nombre

si es aquello lo que Dicta el lugar de su volumen
y el terso nombre seduce el impulso
pues una cuita en los ojos pretende
ser siempre una melodía
con paso inocentemente nocturno

y ahora yo con pincel de lluvia
llenando de versos la boca
con haz verde
con norte
como lo gravitado desvelando mi sueño
tu pensamiento,
mi asombro,
mi puerto

soy latino en el espejo y en el ombligo
por privilegios
alego mis tiernas imprecisiones
no me rebajes del reproche
de graduarme intensamente,
en la mirada que te pertenece

pero cuando el tiempo esté por irse
destilo mi lápiz
porque al tocarlo el tiempo no nos hiere
el excesivo fasto
yo escribo tus fronteras
porque la libertad es una llama
que florece

ni esto que hace ruidos de anhelos con los dedos
rozando la piel de mi ventisca,

nadie puede
augurar un otoño
nadie puede inventarse las raíces
de tu nombre
aún cuando la selva sean mi carne,
mis ojos.


Inventario

digamos,
un sol tan preciso,
un árbol,
la sonrisa de un diámetro
con tanto grado
y ropa
murmulla
un grafo de agazajos,
tiza,
hueso,
digamos,
un soborno
sobre los labios
un verso,
del mar en un nùmero exacto,
digamos
iguanas, en agua
en tierra,
descalzas de planetas,
italia
una nube de rosas, una mancha,
bahía de un café deshabitado,
mi lengua,
té,
arena y viento,
delirio,
mi suspiro,

tu,

la resta
perfecta
del inventario.

©Jorge O. Torres para el poema Tiernas impresiones e Inventario. Todos los derechos reservados.


Luis Lloréns Torres, poeta puertorriqueño y uno de mis favoritos, de quien comparto el poema “A Puerto Rico“. ¡Qué lo disfruten!


Poeta y periodista puertorriqueño. Nació en Juana Díaz y falleció en Santurce. Como poeta, principió con la corriente o escuela modernista, pasando subsiguientemente al estilo y modalidad costumbrista, sin dejar enteramente el ya agotado romanticismo, pues viene asociado a esta escuela al espíritu nacionalista y patriótico por el que pasaba Puerto Rico en esa época de sentimientos independistas y nacionalistas. Mucha de la poesía de Luis Lloréns está influenciada por su militancia política y por el naciente criollismo literario en boga. Es frecuente encontrarse en su poemario con el folklorismo jíbaro y el costumbrismo popular en general. (Biografía sacada de http://www.los-poetas.com, donde puedes encontrar más poetas mundiales)


A PUERTO RICO

La América fue tuya. Fue tuya en la corona
embrujada de plumas del cacique Agüeybana,
que traía el misterio de una noche de siglos
y quemóse en el rayo de sol de una mañana.

El África fue tuya. Fue tuya en las esclavas
que el surco roturaron, al sol canicular.
Tenían la piel negra y España les dio un beso
y las volvió criollas de luz crepuscular.

También fue tuya España. Y fue San Juan la joya,
que aquella madre vieja y madre todavía,
prendió de tu recuerdo como un brillante al aire

sobre el aro de oro que ciñe la bahía.
¿Y el Yanki de alto cuerpo y alma infantil quizás?…
¡E1 Yanki no fue tuyo ni lo será jamás!