Writing Prompt #3 Sestina Time!

“The Persistence of Time” by Salvador Dali.

The above painting is to serve as your inspiration… for a sestina.  Sestina’s are one of many particular forms for a poem, and this one was invented by a twelfth century mathematician  and poet, Arnaut Daniel.  If you want to talk about him in your sestina too, that’s fine.

So here is how a sestina works:

it’s a seven stanza piece, and your first six stanzas have six lines each.  The seventh stanza only has three lines. That makes 39 lines total.

The first stanza is your most important stanza, as the end word of each line, will be used in a particular order throughout the five other stanzas.  Let’s call the last word of each line in the first stanza A.B.C.D.E.F.

So here is what your stanzas will look like.

Stanza 1: A,B,C,D,E,F

Stanza 2: F,A,E,B,D,C

Stanza 3: C,F,D,A,B,E

Stanza 4: E,C,B,F,A,D

Stanza 5: D,E,A,C,F,B

Stanza 6: B,D,F,E,C,A

And for the last stanza, you will begin and end the three lines like this

Line 1: B…A

Line 2: D…C

Line 3: F…E

Kind of weird right?  Confused at all?  Here’s a sample to make your life a little easier.

Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape


The first of the undecoded messages read: “Popeye sits in thunder,
Unthought of. From that shoebox of an apartment,
From livid curtain’s hue, a tangram emerges: a country.”
Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch: “How pleasant
To spend one’s vacation en la casa de Popeye,” she scratched
Her cleft chin’s solitary hair. She remembered spinach


And was going to ask Wimpy if he had bought any spinach.
“M’love,” he intercepted, “the plains are decked out in thunder
Today, and it shall be as you wish.” He scratched
The part of his head under his hat. The apartment
Seemed to grow smaller. “But what if no pleasant
Inspiration plunge us now to the stars? For this is my country.


Suddenly they remembered how it was cheaper in the country.
Wimpy was thoughtfully cutting open a number 2 can of spinach
When the door opened and Swee’pea crept in. “How pleasant!”
But Swee’pea looked morose. A note was pinned to his bib. “Thunder
And tears are unavailing,” it read. “Henceforth shall Popeye’s apartment
Be but remembered space, toxic or salubrious, whole or scratched.”


Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh. “I have news!” she gasped. “Popeye, forced as you know to flee the country
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened, duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
In particular, heaves bolts of loving thunder
At his own astonished becoming, rupturing the pleasant


Arpeggio of our years. No more shall pleasant
Rays of the sun refresh your sense of growing old, nor the scratched
Tree-trunks and mossy foliage, only immaculate darkness and thunder.”
She grabbed Swee’pea. “I’m taking the brat to the country.”
“But you can’t do that—he hasn’t even finished his spinach,”
Urged the Sea Hag, looking fearfully around at the apartment.


But Olive was already out of earshot. Now the apartment
Succumbed to a strange new hush. “Actually it’s quite pleasant
Here,” thought the Sea Hag. “If this is all we need fear from spinach
Then I don’t mind so much. Perhaps we could invite Alice the Goon over”—she scratched
One dug pensively—“but Wimpy is such a country
Bumpkin, always burping like that.” Minute at first, the thunder


Soon filled the apartment. It was domestic thunder,
The color of spinach. Popeye chuckled and scratched
His balls: it sure was pleasant to spend a day in the country.




About amyleighcutler

Writer, dancer, vagabond extraordinaire
This entry was posted in Poetry, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Writing Prompt #3 Sestina Time!

  1. Miriam Sagan says:

    Very fun idea–I teach the sestina–this is useful!

  2. benba57 says:

    “Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape”
    is a favorite. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. Pingback: Time Twister | Morning Star Poetry

  4. Scotti says:

    Well, after not blogging for a year, I was inspired by your prompt…..


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