Monday, August 13, 2012

This sonnet is a limerick

Every poet has a clever form poem that they use to out clever the last poet that they heard or read. This generalisation is true even when it's not. "This is villanelle is a pantoum", says one poet on the open mic. "This triolet was a rondeaux redoublex before it was a couplet" says the next. "This is a hyperborean meteorological chart in the Eschatological mode" says a third.

The worst form poem of all form poems is the sestina. Six stanzas of six lines each, all lines of which end with the same last words that the lines in the previous stanza ended with, only in a different order - you'd think it would be perfect for lazy poets, not having to worry about rhymes, but no. It's devilishly hard working a thousand variations around the same set of six words, and making it meaningful at the same time.

Naturally, every smart alec poet has to get up to the open mic from time to time and say, "this is a Sestina." Then everyone admires them for their brilliance. Then, having got all the admiration out of the way, they actually read the poem, not realising (poets never have a sense of timing) that they should have quit on a high note.

I read my sestina poem at the Dan on Saturday. I began in the time-honoured fashion by announcing that the sestina I was about to read was a sestina. Then I read a sestina. I won't repeat it now, but let's just say it included the word 'darkling', and the phrase 'calm and soothing is the night-time'. (I am very un-calm and non-soothed by that line now. It may very well be used to torment me in hell.)

I wouldn't dream of irritating you all with it now - you have to come to the pub and buy a beer and a copy of Badger's Dozen off me before you get the pleasure of that - but let me just conclude with a four-line haiku:

Early morning sun
Slants through window on green bowl - 
Hope of a new day. 
Shut up, Tim.


Anonymous said...

I have written just the one sestina. Indeed, it is the only form poem I have written. It's a claustrophobic little number about rain and grief. I have performed it on several occasions. I may have announced it as a sestina on some occasions. I can, however, categorically state that I did not announce it as a sestina the first time I performed it. On that occasion, the Dan was eerily quiet - so hushed that I almost broke rhythm to comment. And the MC's back announce was 'Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what form is for.'

So I was proud then, but I'm not sure I love it so much now. Incidentally, is it you who has been looking at it on my blog (since you were writing your own)? Quite curious since most days recently it gets one or two hits.

TimT said...

Not me I'm afraid!

Forgive my grumpiness, mostly I think forms shouldn't be announced (they speak for themselves). So basically I'm being self-critical by bloviating at length on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you. Just bragging :)

Also, much more intriguing that it is someone/s else viewing it...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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