Sestina — Poetry Friday

Since our host this week, Anastasia, hosts STEM Friday as well as Poetry Friday, I wanted to share this mathematical septina I found while perusing the Multi-Author Poetry Blog Tour at UpperRubberBoot. Blogger JoAnne Growney wrote a great blog entry about the mathematics of sestinas and sestina variants. She included in her post a mathematical sestina variation — a septina.

Safety in Numbers by Harry Mathews

The enthusiasm with which I repeatedly declare you my one
And only confirms the fact that we are indeed two,
Not one: nor can anything we do ever let us feel three
(And this is no lisp-like alteration: it’s four
That’s a crowd, not a trinity), and our five
Fingers and toes multiplied leave us at six-

es and sevens where oneness is concerned, although seven
Might help if one was cabalistically inclined, and “one”
Sometimes is. But this “one” hardly means one, it means five
Million and supplies not even an illusion of relevance to us two
And our problems. Our parents, who obviously number four,
Made us, who are two; but who can subtract us from some
mythical three

To see the rest of this septina and other great mathematical poems, visit Joanne’s blog.

I have a fondness for sestinas. In college, I wrote a sestina after reading Elizabeth Bishop’s iconic Sestina. Here was the one I wrote:

Blue, like the color of autumn,
The rain fell, blown by the wind,
And flew across the field, saying goodbye
To the last memories I had pressed in my journal
Like dying leaves, that I will not forget-
These are thoughts I leave to my future selves, of you.

I could not let go these pictures of you,
That I took in my mind, as I lay that autumn,
Staring at the sky, full of clouds wisped by wind,
That waved to the earth they were passing, goodbye,
Like these words, that cover this page in my journal
That, in passing, you eyes will forget.

So many things I already forget:
Like the whispers of wintry things in you,
The way the flowers die off in autumn,
And you hair is blown astray by the wind
That waves the leaves in the trees goodbye.
I have sketched that for you in my journal.

To remember this, I keep a journal
That freezes each day, to not let me forget
How I once looked, sadly, at the though of you
Leaving, as the last berries leave, in autumn
When my company will be the moan of wind
That shall draw my eyes after, saying goodbye.

I spent the summer not thinking of goodbye,
While every memory I wrote in my journal,
Was an admission that you, too, I will forget
And all that will be left is the scent of you,
Like the distant smoke of leaves burning in autumn,
Painful and sharp, carried by the wind.

It is only that, it is only the wind
That understands how to properly say goodbye
As it, tremblingly, turns the pages of the journal
Showing me how, passing through, not to forget
So that it and I can leave, leave you
To the leaves and the chill and autumn.

The wind and I will say our good-byes
To you and to autumn together
And only the journal will forget this.


For more Poetry Friday links, visit Anastasia at Booktalking.

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8 Responses to Sestina — Poetry Friday

  1. Laura Shovan says:

    Hi, Katya. I love the sestina form and sometimes do group sestinas with middle and high schoolers. What a clever idea, to make the six repeating words #s 1-6. Wow.

  2. Pingback: Poetry Friday Reads « Booktalking

  3. Wow! A great post, Katya, and thank you for sharing your lovely sestina from a few memories back.

  4. violet says:

    My hat’s off to you and your sestina! I’ve written a few and they’re not easy–but so satisfying when you finally reach the end and they work out to not only make sense but poetry, as yours does so beautifully. And thanks for introducing me to the septina, a new form to me!

  5. Tabatha says:

    Super post, Katya! I am too tired today to savor it properly, so I will be back to re-read it.

  6. Ruth says:

    Septina! Haven’t heard of one of those yet, but I guess it was inevitable! How clever. I love your sestina, too.

  7. Linda Baie says:

    I love sestinas, used to share them with my middle schoolers who were much intrigued & wrote wonderful ones! The math “septima” is interesting, the line breaks too! I love your sestina, Katya, melancholy I think, & it flowed rather like a walk as she or he was walkin’ down the path.

  8. Mary Lee says:

    I have bookmarked this post so I can come back when I have more time to savor. I LOVE the connections between math and poetry!