Writing Sestinas and Pantoums (and other mathmatical challenges)

22 02 2009

Part of me really enjoys the pressure of a deadline.  It’s too easy sometimes, as writer to find other things to do with your writing time.  I love writing but sometimes when it’s not coming out the way I hope I find myself fixating on “research” or playing online scrabble.

Having assigments to hand in by a certain date keps me on my toes.

For the next one, due 13th March, I have the option of submitting either a 2500 word piece of fiction/biography or 80-100 lines of poety.

I planned on writing prose but after diving into the section on poetry I’m becoming fascinated by some of the forms used.

For example, the Sestina is a highly structured piece of poetry.  For the best explanation see here.

The way it interconnects and seems to repeat itself is clever, and it’s clever because actually, the secret in writing a good one seems to be to find ways to use the identical ending words in new ways.

There are a load of Sestinas on this page

Some are great, some, not so great.

Myfavourite though has to be

How to Build a
Sestina Template
in Microsoft Excel.


from McSweeney’s.net

Have a look, it does exactly what it says on the tin!

Given that I’ve already enjoyed trying out the Pantoum (another of our optional taught forms) I’m thinking I may have a go at submitting poetry.

But it’s a big 20 % part of our overall mark

And the tutor is a poet.  I don’t know if this means she’s more likely to “get” what I write or more likely to see my lack of experience.

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11 01 2008

I’ll keep you in a box
In the recess of my heart.
But occasionally,
I’ll take you out.
To dust you down and hold you to the light,
Like a much loved ball gown that I wore
Just once.
I’ll stroke off the dust and
Run my hands over the memory,
Hold you under my chin,,
And dance,
Around my dreams
Like a débutante.

Why some women stay

10 01 2008

To burn it all, to walk away would leave too big a scar.
He makes no excuses, gives no logic,
Nothing to fight against.
Supine; an infant.
A six foot baby with no mother.
And her breasts, still too full of love.
Swollen with maternal surplus.
But instead of cutting the apron strings
She’ll choke him with them.

Christmas Spending

15 12 2007

Christmas lights flickering, shimmering,
But without the smell of cinnamon or frankincense
Fire in the grate but instead of being
Curled up like a cat in the armchair
He’s sprawled on the rug,
Drinking warm whisky.
Gazing at the flames in the fireplace crackling
And spitting and carrying his worries away.
The smoke from the chimney rising and merging
With the carbon molecules of winters skies.
Turning to snow and falling down
On some far off place
To be trampled down
By the boot of a woodcutter.

Chronic Recurring Condition

14 12 2007

The bed-sit with the bright orange curtains
Let in the sunshine until one day
They opened onto darkness.
And so down in the carpark you gave in.
Had your first hit
And then the sun…
Well it just couldn’t compete,
Could it?

Now day after day you’re waiting and queuing
From dealer to dole-cheque a circle making
A great big fat nothing
Like the shape of your mouth
When they told you he was dead
The noise of those nightmares ring in your head
Like a mobile phone that no one’s hearing
In a vacant room
Down comes the tree in the empty clearing.

No map to avert the wrong direction
Long sleeves cloak the signs of your addiction
But nothing conceals the death in your eyes
And so you stop seeing your own reflection
It’s time for resurrection

Chaotic, robotic, narcotic

Veins imploding blood coursing
Get clean but don’t think that means you’re dirty
Your soul is still fighting
Stop hiding.
Raise your head.
Stop looking at the pavement
You’re better than that
You can get higher than that,
Put the knife away son, there’s no call for that

The Song of the Sea

29 10 2007

Her life was undulated.
In her depths she was a mermaid-ghost,
Almost never there,
Shut off from the world.
Then the waves rose and the storm force took her
Higher, higher, higher
Twelve feet tall, invincible;
A warrior princess.

If the hunters came
It could be her final night.
She didn’t care.
Fearless; unconcerned,
No vulnerability
The waves crashed in again.
Shame washed her upon the shore
Dishevelled and wanton.

She tried to dig.
To hide under the sand,
But it would not stay fixed.
Poured away, fell from her grasp
Slid off her skin as she dried out
Defilement. The shame
Pressed down like the sweltering sun
Burning her skin; making her eyes sting.

“No more!”

She looked up and saw
The horizon and the temperate ocean.
And in she waded; stepping with new cold toes.
The water grabbed;
Resisted but she continued
Once again with the sea.
Sinking deeper
Until the weight of it held her still again.

© Jenny Love
Oct 2007

Having bit of a rough time of things the past few weeks. Don’t know if it’s just post-course blues or if I’ve been burning the candle at both ends too much but writing this really helped me make sense of what I’ve been feeling. I don’t know if that’s what poetry is meant for but anyway…it helped.

Breaking the Line

28 05 2007

So there she goes
Again, reckless
Suicidal hedonism,
“What does that button do?”
She asks, but presses on regardless.
Too impatient for a reply.

Cocaine headlights hidden, she drives onwards up the coast road.
Crosses over into
The oncoming carriageway.
Another car
To come round the corner.

Her life was always like this.
Sometimes it took her,
But sometimes it took her
To places, people, experiences she could
Never have lived without.

Then one night he came screeching
Around the bend…

The vehicles did not collide.
But lightly kissed in passing.
(for at that moment he had been doing exactly the same thing)
She not only survived.
She felt,
She lived.