The sestina is a medieval provencal poetic form attributed to the troubadour Arnaut Daniel. It consists of six six-line stanzas, ending with a three-line envoi. The six words that end the lines of the first stanza are repeated as the end words of each of the other stanzas in a complex pattern that goes like this (note that each letter corresponds to an end word, not an end rhyme): abcdef, faebdc, cfdabe, ecbfad, deacfb, bdfeca. Each line of the three-line envoi must end with one of the end words but also must contain within it one of the other end words. There are several possible patterns for the envoi, but the most common are ace or eca for the end words and bdf or fdb for the middle words. Since the same words are repeated throughout the poem, the sestina is an excellent vehicle for meditation on complex and multiple meanings.
By Arnaut Daniel. A side-by-side translation from the Provencal, with a .midi version of a traditional troubadour melody. From a troubadour site, which claims this as "the first sextain in the history of literature."
A brief description and history of the sestina form with examples.
A sestina by Kathleen Craker Firestone, at the Northern Michigan Journal's website.
The Krenek Sestinas
By Don Mager. A set of six related sestinas both echoing and about the music and life of Ernst Krenek, a serial composer. Part of Eclectica Magazine v2n2.
McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Sestinas
A treasure trove of sestinas submitted to McSweeney's from 2003 - 2007.
Poetic Form: Sestina
An explanation of the form with a link to Ashberry's "Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape" and an explanation of Marie Ponsot's redaction of the form, the "tritina." From the Academy of American Poets.
Poetry Form - The Sestina.
A description and explanation of the form, with examples and a step-by-step guide to writing one.
Description and examples from a course taught by Alberto Rios.
A brief definition and description from a course at the University of Pennsylvania.
By Elizabeth Bishop. Includes readers' comments.
By Algernon Charles Swinburne. Unusual in its use of rhyme.
Sestina in the Computer Age
By Scott Reid.
Sestina of the Tramp-Royal
By Rudyard Kipling, in Cockney dialect. Part of the DayPoems Poetry Collection edited by Timothy Bovee.
The Sestina Page
A Web site devoted to the sestina form, with a large online archive of examples. Going beyond the extensive home page requires the reader to join "Yahoo Groups."
By Ezra Pound. Perhaps the most famous modern use of the form.
Sestinas for Free
A collection by Nicholas Gordon that can be used free for any personal or non-commercial purpose.
Sestinas: Browse, or Build Your Own
A template for creating sestinas.
The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina
By Miller Williams. Part of a larger site called The Wondering Minstrels.
Some Thoughts on Sestinas
By Lawrence Schimel, with a sestina by Joe Haldeman.
Last update:December 25, 2016 at 1:36:45 UTC