• RSS Versifier

    • As The Light Changes
      The East Anglian Daily Times ran an article entitled ’22 beautiful poems about East Anglia’ in their Saturday magazine insert on March 18th this year. I was very pleased to see this poem of mine on the same page as poems by Sir Walter Raleigh and George Szirtes. TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON […]
    • The Last Word
      By way of a change, here is a short piece of prose: In a writers’ group this morning we were challenged to write a short story in 150 words.  The story below contains exactly that number.   The light was starting to fade, and breaking soft waves seemed even quieter.  He stopped collecting pebbles and […]
    • Moving Hands
      How many things that  seemed eternal early in life, have completely vanished?                         TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW ABOVE   Sometime in the nineteen-fifties it perched on the hundred-foot workshop,  where Waitrose’s  entrance is now. It would pace the working lives of hundreds. […]
    • You know you are worth it
      I wrote this poem in mid November this year, then my e-mail inbox started to fill with ‘Pre-Black Friday’ offers, then ‘Black Friday’ offers, followed later by ‘Post Black Friday’ offers, and now I am seeing ‘Black Friday repeat offers’!  Reality has overtaken imagination.   TO HEAR THIS POEM PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE […]
    • Poems for a portrait
      I agreed to sit as the model again this morning for an art group producing portraits.  We had a cultural exchange as at the end of the two sessions as I recited the Haikus composed in my head during the forty minutes of the sitting.  I then exchanged a book of my poetry for the […]
    • Last Orders
      This poem won a ‘Commended’ award in the recent 2016 George Crabbe Poetry Competition.  The competition judge, Moniza Alvi, wrote of ‘Last Orders’ “Tragic and hard hitting, I found this poignant poem compelling.”  ” This is a poem with a real sense of urgency”. PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM […]
    • Irony
      During a few days in Liverpool we visited Crosby Beach, to see the Antony Gormley sculptures arranged as  ‘Another Place’.  Two friends had been examining the work, and turned to walk off the beach.  I took the photograph below, and the poem was written after I examined the image, using an  element of artistic license. ‘Communing’ […]
    • Illuminating Longing
      Here is a shared experience from the night of the full ‘Strawberry  Moon’ on June 20th.  A warm evening after a wet morning promised the sight of Nightjars hunting, and the moon was a bonus, PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM   The mist quilt  slips across the sodden heath […]
    • Soon the Longing can begin
      Two days after the referendum, and still dazed by the result. PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM   Soon the longing can begin, but the awareness of our loss will take longer for all to own. Already the Young feel despair for they were closer to hope than the wrinkled, […]
    • Deleting Footnotes
      This poem recently was selected by Helen Ivory for appearance in the poetry webzine  ‘Ink, Sweat and Tears‘, it also appeared the the Suffolk Poetry Society’s magazine ‘Twelve Rivers’. PLEASE CLICK ON THE ARROW BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR THIS POEM   You can never prepare for this task. It demands no passion in the wrecking, just […]

The Sestina

The Sestina is a very old form of poetry, thought to have been invented at the end of the twelfth century in France, and taken up in England in the nineteenth century.  It is formed by six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a final three lines.  It takes the form of blank verse, and instead of rhyme the sestina uses word repetition, but in a very particular order.  The repetition is of the last word in each line of the first stanza.  The six words must    appear as the last words in each stanza, but each time in a different order.  In addition the last word of each stanza must be the last word in the first line of the following stanza. Two of the words must then appear in each line of the ending tercet.  This repetition can be shown as follows;
Stanza I        word order 1-2-3-4-5-6
Stanza II      word order 6-1-5-2-4-3
Stanza III     word order 3-6-4-1-2-5
Stanza IV     word order 5-3-2-6-1-4
Stanza V       word order 4-5-1-3-6-2
Stanza VI      word order 2-4-6-5-3-1

I have used this formula in the sestina I have written below, and list the word order against each stanza.

A sestina for Jean

The Moon quietly carves the soft Suffolk coast                             (1) 
moving each day the multi-coloured stones                                   (2)
dusting them with sand or leaving all exposed                              (3)
in the endless change known as ‘long-shore drift’                         (4)
a power known by those with their house in the sea                     (5)
robbed by a tide that rose against their their life.                         (6)

The sounds of the shore enhances your life                                    (6)
for you have staked your claim by the coast                                    (1) 
now rich with glass rubbed smooth by the sea.                              (5)
Its wet voice whispers, in wave rattled stones’                                (2)
beguiling sibilance your thoughts soon drift                                  (4)
to encompass all friends whose pain is exposed.                            (3)

The wind from the north reams all exposed                                    (3)
just as sharply mischance can bite hard into life                             (6)
for the want of a rudder a friend may drift                                       (4)
like flotsam at neap tides stands off from the coast.                       (1)
So for each wreck-risk you seek a hag-stone                                    (2)
a power torus for fortune,  pierced by the sea.                                 (5)

When calm is required you are drawn to the sea                             (5)
the beach your sanctuary where wish is exposed                             (3)
without need of a building raised in hewn stones.                          (2)
The  sand-grains blown chorus sings of brief life                             (6)
as it wafts up the beach of this east facing coast                               (1)
but unlike a weak singer –  your note doesn’t drift.                          (4)

Once I was seduced by the soft allure of drift                                    (4)
bourne away by ideas that in lands across the sea                           (5)
I would find experience unknown within our coast.                         (1)
Flattered for the chance for my skills to be exposed                         (3)
I accepted a challenge in Northern Iran, a change in life                 (6)
that weaned my false illusions as a ‘rolling stone.’                             (2)

Daily the indifferent sun roasted desert stones                                   (2)
stark turquoise skies knew no kiss of cloud’s drift                              (4)
the grey-brown dust clothed all forms of life.                                      (6)
River wadis stood ash dry, nothing moved towards the sea              (5)
in a desiccating task my frailities were exposed                                   (3)
instead of rich experience,  life began to coast.                                    (1)

Now I am anchored, a stone polished by the sea                        (2) and (5)
you have snared my aimless drift, holding me exposed            (4) and (3)
to the rich strands of life on an ever changing coast.                 (6) and (1)

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3 Comments

  1. Eve

     /  April 25, 2015

    Thank you for this simple formula and the beautiful example. I love sestina’s and needed a bit of help remembering the formula when I came upon yours. Blessed Be, Eve

  2. Eve, I am glad you enjoyed the poem and found the Sestina format explanation useful

  1. Delaney Out Loud

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