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Obsession

Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century

Carolyn Beard Whitlow

Publication Year: 2014

The sestina (of medieval French origin) is a complex poetic form of 39 lines (six sestets and a three-line "envoy") in which the six end-words (teleutons) of the lines of the first sestet stanza are repeated in a specific order as teleutons in the five succeeding sestets. In the envoy, the six teleutons are again picked up, one of them being buried in, and one finishing, each line.

Because of the complexity of the form, the sestina fell out of favor with poets for several decades. However, a twenty-first century revival of the form is underway. This is the first anthology of sestinas that showcases both traditional and innovative examples of the form by modern and contemporary poets, award winners, and emerging writers alike. Organized by such themes as Americana; Art; Love and Sex; and Memory, Contemplation, Retrospection, and Death, the collection also includes sestinas with irregular teleutons and unconventional sestinas. An evocative introduction by Marilyn Krysl acquaints readers with the form. The volume concludes with useful indexes of first lines and teleutons, increasing access to the poems beyond the poets' names.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

Preface: I Put a Spell on You

Carolyn Beard Whitlow

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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction

Marilyn Krysl

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pp. xiii-xvi

A high school English teacher assigned our class Dylan Thomas’ villanelle “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” When I was ten I’d lost the hearing in my left ear, and I identified with Thomas’ perseverance in the face of loss. The repetitions in the poem acted as a soothing balm. And the repetitions urged courage. The poem was...

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Americana

Americans think of ourselves as originals, and we cherish our memorabilia, objects which signal our authenticity. For writers, as for citizens at large, Americana is about cultural memory, history, and nostalgia. The poems in this section are rich with reference to cultural artifacts: the clothing we choose to wear, the music we prefer to hear, the...

A Little Like Dorothy

Grace Bauer

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pp. 3-

The Paul Bunyan Sestina

Alex Cigale

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pp. 4-

Pigs Advance as Organ-Transplant Factories for People

Jan Clausen

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pp. 5-

Presidential Potpourri

Martha Golensky

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pp. 6-

Inauguration (1997) Sestina

George Held

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pp. 7-

Time Reviews the Ziegfeld Follies Featuring Josephine Baker, 1936

A. Van Jordan

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pp. 8-9

In Praise of the New Transfer Station

Maxine Kumin

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pp. 10-

All-American Sestina

Florence Cassen Mayers

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pp. 11-

Loaded

Patricia Monaghan

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pp. 12-

Keeper of the Keys (1740)

Marilyn Nelson

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pp. 13-

The Van with the Plane

Licia Perillo

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pp. 14-

Brooklyn, 1941

Ada Jill Schneider

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pp. 15-

Sestina to Bind a Goodbye

Murray Silverstein

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pp. 16-

The 103rd Birthday of Emma Regina Degraffenreid Smith

Alice Teeter

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pp. 17-19

Jean Hill

Tony Trigilio

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pp. 20-

Marilyn Monroe

Lawanda Walkters

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pp. 21-

Strut

Nahueyalti Warren

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pp. 22-

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Art

Diverse, auspicious voices grace this section, beginning with Sherman Alexie describing the art and effect of fancydancing. There follows Alicia Ostriker musing on Rembrandt’s fulfillment and loss, Maryann Corbett comparing her Great Depression frugality with her painter...

The Business of Fancydancing

Sherman Alexie

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pp. 25-

Nature Morte

Jeanne Marie Beaumont

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pp. 26-

The Art Student’s Mother Thinks Out Loud

Maryann Corbett

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pp. 27-

The Stone Carver

Barbara Lydecker Crane

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pp. 28-

People in Home Movies

Phina P. Espaillat

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pp. 29-

RVR: Work and Love

Alicia Ostriker

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pp. 30-

Godfather

Danez Smith

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pp. 31-32

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Love and Sex

The sestina with its teleutons chiming back and forth throughout the poem is an especially appropriate form for mediating our human longing for love and our desire to escape impermanence. Michele Battiste’s lines in “No Swimming” rock the way the sea rocks, endlessly, obsessively. She...

Lightning Storm at Sea

Raewyn Alexander

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pp. 35-

No Swimming

Michele Battiste

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pp. 36-

Why It Almost Never Ends with Stripping

Shaindel Beers

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pp. 37-

Boy Wearing a Dress

Dan Bellm

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pp. 38-

Tantalizing Sestina

Kate Bernadette Benedict

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pp. 39-

Sestina in Red

Rafael Campo

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pp. 40-

The Sleeping Beauty

Melissa Cannon

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pp. 41-

Wintering

Kelly Cherry

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pp. 42-

A Definition of Terms

Blas Falconer

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pp. 43-

Chicken-Hearted

Jennifer Givhan

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pp. 44-

Clark Kent Leaves the Optometrist

Juliana Gray

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pp. 45-

Louganis

Eloise Klein Healy

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pp. 46-

Diary Three (Tchaikovsky)

Kate Light

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pp. 47-

The Lovers’ Sestina

Bruce Meyer

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pp. 48-

Quickening

Deborah Miranda

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pp. 49-

First Time: 1950

Honor Moore

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pp. 50-

Why I Read True Crime Books

Diane Lockward

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pp. 51-

Noah’s Sestina for Raven and Dove

Gail Storey

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pp. 52-

Playing With Dolls

David Trinidad

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pp. 53-

The Art of the Invisible

Pramila Venkateswaran

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pp. 54-

Sestina from the Home Gardener

Diane Wakoski

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pp. 55-

Book of Ruth

Carolyn Beard Whitlow

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pp. 56-

Memory, Contemplation, Retrospection, and Death

Bilingual Sestina

Julia Alvarez

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pp. 59-

The Relative of Fear

Herman Beavers

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pp. 60-

Sad Sestina

Robin Becker

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pp. 61-

The River Children Come of Age

Michael Cantor

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pp. 62-

Tiresias

James Cummins

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pp. 63-

Six-Fingered Sestina

Denise Duhamel

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pp. 64-

Evening

Nausheen Eusuf

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pp. 65-

Decoration Day

Nola Garrett

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pp. 66-

Towards Autumn

Marilyn Hacker

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pp. 67-

Essay on a Recurring Theme

Jeffery Harrison

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pp. 68-

Glowing Doors

Martha Kalin

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pp. 69-

Warscape, With Lovers

Marilyn Krysl

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pp. 70-

The Organ Builder

Austin Macrae

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pp. 71-

Six

Charlotte Mandel

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pp. 72-

Sestina for Solo Nights

Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

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pp. 73-

It Comes in Waves

Joan Mazza

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pp. 74-

A Tragedy of Flowers

Mary Meriam

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pp. 75-

W. S. Merwin Tells a Story During Q & A

Joseph Mills

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pp. 76-

A Quiet Rhythm of Sleep

Lenard D. Moore

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pp. 77-

Clock

Alfred Nicol

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pp. 78-

Minds Innocent and Quiet

Barbara J. Orton

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pp. 79-

Half-Life: Copies to All Concerned

Marie Ponsot

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pp. 80-

Leonine

Jay Rogoff

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pp. 81-82

Ethel’s Sestina

Patricia Smith

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pp. 83-84

Miami Beach, Moonrise

Eleanor Swanson

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pp. 85-

The Obsession

Lewis Turco

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pp. 86-

Saint Joseph’s Convent, Waipukurau, 1967

Tim Upperton

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pp. 87-88

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The Natural World

The word obsession sometimes suggests extremity: an overweening need to go beyond what seems the usual, the daily, the ordinary. Extremity may produce detrimental consequences, such as an excess of carbon in the atmosphere, but it may also produce stewards who shepherd the natural...

Lizards

Celia Lisset Alvarez

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pp. 91-

Come

Stephanie Thomas Berry

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pp. 92-

Sleepless

Kathryn Stripling Byer

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pp. 93-

Australia Dreaming

Mary-Marcia Casoly

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pp. 94-

Diamonds from Mud

Dallas Crow

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pp. 95-

The Feast in the Barn

Sally Evans

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pp. 96-97

Provençal Laundry

Julie Fay

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pp. 98-

The Bass

Annie Finch

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pp. 99-

Some Stars Are Not Used for Navigation

Trina Gaynon

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pp. 100-

The Book of the House on the Niagara River

Laura Hope-Gill

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pp. 101-

The Sounds

Andrew Johnston

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pp. 102-

Desert Sestina

Kristin Latour

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pp. 103-

Southern Man

Mary McCallum

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pp. 104-

The Front Room

Elise Paschen

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pp. 105-106

Sestinas About Sestinas: Metasestinas

My Confessional Sestina

Dana Gioia

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pp. 109-

Sestina

Donald Hall

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pp. 110-

Class Assignment: Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem

Maura Stanton

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pp. 111-

How to Write a Sestina

F. Keith Wahle

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pp. 112-

How the Sestina (Yawn) Works

Anne Waldman

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pp. 113-

The Substitute Teaches the Sestina

Ken Waldman

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pp. 114-

Sestinas with Irregular Teleutons

Mr. X

Catherine Bowman

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pp. 117-

Thursday

Lynn Domina

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pp. 118-

The Iraqi Curator’s PowerPoint

Philip Metres

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pp. 119-

Bird

Alan Micharl Parker

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pp. 120-

Deleting Names (A Decaying Sestina)

Lawrence Schimel

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pp. 121-

The Shrinking Lonely Sestina

Miller Williams

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pp. 122-

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Unconventional Sestinas

Traditional sestinas require six verse sestets or six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. Poets experimenting with the form, however, may adhere only to the requirement of teleutons. All elements of the lyrical and syntactical line might disappear, replaced by single words in juxtaposition without any sentence structure, as in Evie Shockley’s starkly...

For Black Girls

Nikki Blak

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pp. 125-126

The Photographer

Shannon Bramer

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pp. 127-

Prayer for the Abandoned

Ruth Foley

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pp. 128-131

Clare’s Song

Evie Shockley

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pp. 132-

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Afterword

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pp. 133-134

The verse form which we call the “sestina” is of Medieval French origin, attributed to Arnaut Daniel in the late twelfth century and used by other Gallic poets and by Italians including Petrarch and Dante, from whom it received its Italian name. The introduction of the form into English literature dates from...

Contributors

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pp. 135-142

Acknowledgments

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pp. 143-146

Index of First Lines

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pp. 147-148

Index of (Loosely) Metrical and Syllabic Sestinas

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pp. 149-150

Index of Teleutons

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pp. 151-152


E-ISBN-13: 9781611685305
E-ISBN-10: 1611685303
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611685299

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2014