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A Poetic Look At: Sestina

kaleidoscope

(c) 2013 Windy Johansen

What’s a Sestina?

It’s a rather long poetry form.

Oh eek. How long?

It’s 6 stanzas, each with 6 lines. You take the ending words of each of the lines in the first stanza, and use them again for ending each line in subsequent stanzas, in a specific order of…scrambling, you could say. (You are allowed to changed your ending words forms or not, depending on who you ask.)

Traditionally, it also possessed an envoi. That is a three line final stanza that used all the ending words in it. This also has a dictated order, but only for the ending words. (All ending words are used, but certain ones are placed at the end, and this is based on their position in the first stanza.

This form doesn’t dictate a meter.

You…what..it..purple monkey dishwasher…?

Ah….um…the best way to do this is to show you.

Okay. That sounds better, I’m sure it will make sense then.

It will.

I’m going to show you one of mine from several years ago. All I can say for it is that it follows the form. (The end words in the first stanza are italicized, to better help you understand.)

My Confessional Sestina
Let me contribute my opinion.
Sestinas in poetry workshops
may not be an opportunity
to witness gems of taste and form,
but it is the job of the teacher
to show the value of balance.

The job is one of balancing
form and spirit, with no fear of opinion
outside, strengthening students by teaching
confidence in the personal workshop
of the mind. In poetry, form
opens the passage of creative opportunity.

The opportunity
of the student is to learn to balance
the scaffolding of form
with the flesh of opinion.
In a workshop,
this skill is what they try to teach.

It offers those who teach
and those who are taught opportune
time to work on and shop in the workshop
for words and phrases to balance
the shimmer of opinion
on the strength of form.

This strong form
Must be taught
So it can support opinion
without caging creative opportunity.
This balance
invites a ennobling workshop.

In a truly ennobling workshop
the learning of form
brings balance
to the work being taught.
It gives the student the opportunity
to form their own opinion.

It is the two which form the balance
in a workshop meant to give opportunity
for people to teach themselves their own opinion.

Now I get it.

I was hoping you would. :)

Helpful links:
http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5792
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sestina

A Poetic Look At: How Iambic Pentameter Isn’t Terrifying (Nor Is Any Other Meter)

kaleidoscope

(c) 2013 Windy Johansen

Ack! Meter AGAIN?

I-I know. I kind of messed it up before. Also, it helps to revisit things like this every now and again.

But it’s boring! And lame! Did I mention it was boring?
Yeah, it kind of is. It’s one of those fussy things. But it helps give your writing better…flow, you might call it.

O-Oh. Okay. Why?

There’s an inherent musicality in words, in the interplay of different stresses. If you put them together in the right way, you can mold your words to flow sweetly and calmly…or you can purposefully make them very jarring. (If you’re writing a scary scene, think of how it might help to have your words assisted by a jarring sort of rhythm. Conversely, think of how two lovers might speak to one another, and how you can show us their love for one another without relying entirely on just the words they speak.)

So I..hm. So how does this work?

Continue reading

A Poetic Look At: Haiku

Kaleidoscope

(c) 2013 Windy Johansen

So…why haiku this time?

Because they are popular, and I love them. Additionally, they are an interesting example of how other languages handle and organize sounds and words into poetry. In English, we use meter. Other languages do not use meter, or do not use it as English does.

But I know about haiku.

That’s great! It helps to build on something that we already know when trying to learn new things.

Okay, so…how do haiku work?

(I know I was taught a fair bit about haiku as a child, but I am going to talk as if you all don’t know many of these things. Therefore no one will be lost or confused.)

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form. Haiku have a single stanza of three lines. Line one is five syllables, line two is seven syllables, line three is five syllables again. This is what most people are taught.

In researching this, I discovered that haiku don’t have three lines when written in Japanese. They have only one; the three lines in English-language haiku point back to the three phrases that haiku have in Japanese.

Syllables, Morae and On

Japanese syllables are not syllables, but on (or morae). Japanese on are all the same length. Stress is more or less the same across all on. Since Japanese is a tonal language, you may hear high-tone on as stress. (Japanese has two tones. The other is low-tone.)

Haiku were once referred to as hokku. They grew out of renku (hokku is still the name for the first verse of a renku poem), and were viewed in that context for a time. In order to truly separate haiku from renku, Masaoka Shiki, a haiku author, suggested the name of haiku (an abbreviation of haikai no ku).

You told me that every poetic form has a recipe. What’s the recipe this time?

On (which we already talked about), a kigo, and the idea of kireji.

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A Poetic Look At: Poetic Forms

Kaleidoscope

(c) 2013 Windy Johansen

So what’s a poetic form?

A recipe of sorts. One like sugar cookies. Rad, sweet, sugar cookies. (That was my sweet tooth talking, sorry. :) ) It takes several ingredients, mixed in a certain way, giving you an expected result, but with room for variation.

Sounds fine, but what’s wrong with formless poetry?

Not one thing. I write in a style that doesn’t seem to fit a form. It seems like it fits free verse the most, but I don’t know for sure.

But it’s fun to know how to work in new forms. You can enjoy both an old friend and get to love a new one. No one was talking about replacing anything. I’d be sad if you did!

That’s okay, then. What are the parts of the recipe?

Structurally speaking: words, meter, line, and stanzas. (There’s also the idea of half-lines, but they’re not something I’ve heard too much about. We’ll probably talk about them in the midst of a form that makes use of them.)

Stylistically speaking: mood, subject, and degree of repetition. Repetition doesn’t have to be bad, by the way. It can make a given idea stick better, or it can really annoy the socks off people.

We’ll talk about structures today. Stylistic things are really best talked about in the context of a given form. (Repetition is the special one that will get its own post.)

*hands out cookies* (It seems like a good time to share those. :) )

(Cookie) Center of the Matter

Words – Eggs/Flavorings

They’re …well, what you’re reading here. Not too bad so far. They can carry quite a lot in themselves, without any intentional meter. A big plate of eggs, with a bit of salt and pepper is nice. But we wanted cookies, so on to the other ingredients.

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Daily Quote #2 -The Value of Learning

This is the second in daily series of posts collecting wisdom from others on different subjects. Today’s theme is the value of learning. What can we learn, just by our own research? Learning happens in the classroom, but I almost wonder if more learning doesn’t happen in the midst of everyday things.

What do you think? Here’s what other people have said about the value of learning.


“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” — Albert Einstein (source: zenhabits)


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi (source: Goodreads)


“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” — Socrates (source: Goodreads)


“Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life.” — Brigham Young (source: Goodreads)


“He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever.” — Chinese Proverb (source: About.com Quotations)


“Learning never exhausts the mind.” — Leonardo da Vinci (source: Goodreads)


“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” — B.B. King (source: Goodreads)


“I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” — Natalie Portman (source: Goodreads)


“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” — Albert Einstein (source: Goodreads)


What is the value of learning for you? What environments help you to learn things easily? Tell me in the comments.

Garnets and freshwater pearls in silver colored wire.

Photo and jewelry design, (c) 3 January 2012, Windy Johansen.