Tag Archives: sestina

Sestinas and writer’s block

A sestina is a poetic form. It consists of six-line stanzas, with each stanza’s lines ending in the same six words, in a different order for each stanza. Then there is a final stanza, called the envoi, in which each line contains two of the six words.

You can see examples of sestinas here, or provide your own six words to see what form comes out.

It is incredibly hard to write a sestina that doesn’t sound forced, and hardly anybody ever manages it. A really good sestina, when read aloud, is not immediately identifiable as a sestina. It just sounds like there’s a rhythm in there, but you can’t quite place it until you read it that third or fourth time, and see it on a page.

Most sestinas, however, work for the first stanza, and possibly the second, but after that you feel that the author is just saying any old nonsense just to stay in the form.

Sestinas work best when they are about a repetitive topic. Examples might be a child’s game, or an addiction, or a daily event. So I thought that the latest topic on Inspire Me Thursday – Breath – would be ideal for it. Unfortunately, so far, it just sounds like, after the first stanza, I’m merely babbling to fit the form.

I’ve had a really hard time writing lately. Everything feels forced, both fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. I keep hoping that if I force it long enough, it’ll start to flow. But the pump refuses to be primed.