Negative Capability

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean phrases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been hanging with Will Shakespeare the last couple of days. No. It’s true–I have. I’m listening to a University course on CD taught by Professor Grant Voth from Monterey Peninsula College titled “The History of World Literature,” and it’s Shakespeare we’ve been visiting.

When I was in High School, we weren’t really taught Shakespeare; at least that’s how I remember it. It was more like having Macbeth and the Merchant of Venice and I don’t remember who else shoved down our throats. I can’t say that anything of this brilliant writer struck me as something I would want to carry with me into adult life. If he made his way into college or graduate level studies, I must have tuned out, but I rather suspect he was not deemed critical for the practice of nursing or health care administration. So now I’m catching up and falling in love with his work for the first time.

Professor Voth admitted that it would be hard to give much due to the man in a half hour lecture (the series is a total of 48 sessions) so he chose to home in on a specific aspect of Shakespeare’s use of language. I’d like to share one little tidbit that struck me: negative capability. The poet Keats, known to most of us who crawl around in our poetry communities, offered the term to describe Shakespeare’s ability to empty himself of his ego in order to identify totally with the over 1000 characters he developed. Voth asserts that if you were to receive a quantity of character monologues without knowing the plays, you would be able to sort them by character. They are that distinctive. People of multiple professions will swear that Shakespeare was one of them: lawyer, sailor…you get the idea.

For today’s prompt, I suggest this: Make an effort to so completely enter the persona of a character you create, whether in prose or poetry. Try to make it so real that your readers will believe that it’s really a part of your experience.

I will link a Sestina I previously posted titled “Addiction.” Throughout my life I’ve had contact with people who are addicted to substance or process: loved ones, patients and colleagues. I myself have not had to go through the depth of pain I describe in the poem. Both of my novels also have alcoholics in them and, for whatever reason, they have been among the characters I most enjoyed developing.

I hope some of you will take up this challenge. If not, perhaps this short article will encourage you to play with negative capability in your own writing. If you would like to participate, here’s how:

  • Write your flash fiction or poem and post it on your blog or website–a novel or short story excerpt is fine, too;
  • Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this page. Add your name and the direct URL of your post in the areas indicated;
  • Take a few moments to read other entries, especially those of bloggers who’ve commented on your work;
  • Be creative and have fun!

Image: Public Domain

Write2Day: Music and the Written Word

Data of manuscript unknown. Held in Florence, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate the interconnectedness of all the various expressions of art. Consider how many photographic bloggers participate in poetry communities. How often do you see prose or poetry bloggers insert links to music in their work? Or how about visual or performance arts as an inspiration for the written word? Today, I’d like to present a few brief thoughts about how music and writing are wed.

Music and meter.

We discover an obvious connection between music and poetry when we write or read form poetry, which often is defined by meter. But even in prose, the writer often (consciously or not) seeks to create a rhythmic sequence of words that is pleasing to the ear. I’ve found myself searching for a word of a certain number of syllables or with emphasis on a particular syllable because my ear tells me it will work better than the word I may have chosen in the first place.

Music as a metaphor.

Use of musical metaphors can be so effective in evoking certain moods. Think about how you “feel” listening to a symphony as opposed to hip-hop. There are scenes where I’ve mentioned background music just for the purpose of creating an emotion. Use of musical instructive words, words that tell the musician to slow down (adagio), speed it up (allegro), play louder (forte) or softer (pianissimo) are just a few examples of techniques to add an emotional context to both prose and poetry. There is a very useful glossary of musical terminology at

Music as Inspiration.

Many writers and artists use music to help inspire their work. I once read in a novel-writing how-to book (sorry, I can’t remember which one) the suggestion to create a sound track that represents the nature of your manuscript.

For today’s prompt, let’s turn to music. Here’s a few suggestions of how you might do that:

  • Write a form poem that calls for a specific meter such as iambic pentameter.
  • Use music as the subject of your short fiction or poem.
  • Employ a musical metaphor in your work.
  • Write a short essay on how you use music in your writing, or how music has influenced you in the past.

To participate, post your work on your blog. Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and include your name and the direct URL of your post. Visit and comment on other participants in this prompt. Have fun with it!

Here’s a poem I posted a while back, a sestina, that combines music as a metaphor and meter.

Photo: David Slotto

Song of Songs

a Sestina

All the world’s a stage set to music.

You stroke my life like strings of Your guitar.

We’re born to fly so Your touch of gentleness

sounds a chord in my core that thrills.

Round and round You lead me in a dance—

the whirling rhythm swirls in my heart.

Rejoice, oh world; you hold grief in your heart.

Defy those who claim silence lacks all music.

Refute the clowns who refuse to dance—

Who, though called to joy, strum a dirge on their guitars.

Avoid the fool who rejects life’s thrill,

who sinks into the void with gentleness.

At dawn, mockingbird chants a song of gentleness

awakens the earth, enlivens her heart.

You stir in my Spirit-womb, Your Presence thrills.

Your promised love resounds of music,

Your hands play me as You would play Your guitar.

Our beings entwine and we enter the dance.

The earth and stars conspire to join the dance.

Ocean waves lick the sands with gentleness,

winds pluck the strings of willow tree guitars

while rain plants seeds in Earth—the Mother’s heart.

By day, the sun sings bliss—at night moon-music

plays arpeggios You designed to thrill.

I hear the door You open with a thrill,

arise to greet Your entry with a dance,

breath in the air You fill with sounds of music,

surrender to the call of gentleness,

responding to the rhythm of Your heart—

the wild beat of a classical guitar.

Submit my soul to music, the stroke of Your guitar,

Your voice, Your gentleness, never fail to thrill.

I yield to the tempo of your dance, lay down my heart.

Write2Day–Setting and Description


Image via Wikipedia

As writers of fiction and poetry, I believe part of our responsibility to readers is to allow them to travel places they have never been or to revisit places that are familiar, thus evoking memories or heightening awareness.

Long descriptive paragraphs of setting often disenchant today’s readers who are used to momentary flashes of multiple images across a screen within a few seconds (Does this relate to the high incidence of attention deficit disorder in our culture?) but the fact remains that setting and the use of sensory description enriches the reader’s experience. One way to use this technique without losing our audience is employ it as a device to break up dialogue. Here’s a very brief example from my recently-published novel, “Winter is Past”

“I wonder how Michael’s handling it. Do you think I should I call him?” Josh asked me.

“Will it help?” Based on Kathryn’s assessment, I had my doubts.

Josh shook his head and fixed his eyes on a quail eating seeds he’d planted in the flower garden. “Maybe not, but I can try; I’ll call after we eat…”

Even more valuable, in my opinion, is the writer’s ability to convey emotion through setting. Consider this brief passage from the same novel as a means of eliciting fear, sadness and powerlessness:

I trotted after Kathryn who jogged along the brick path beside our house. My eye caught sight of a tiny wren, cowering in the dense foliage of a rambling juniper shrub. Overhead, a majestic red-tailed hawk circled, squawking a message of certain doom at the tiny bird. I felt tears well up in my eyes then turned my attention back to Kathryn who now disappeared through the redwood gate.

In previous posts, I’ve described a practice I use off and on. In your writing journal, at the end of each day, describe 5-10 things you have noticed throughout the day. Return to these lists for ideas to supplement your own writing then return to a scene you have written in which you have “told” rather than “shown” an emotion. Try rewriting it using a bit of scenery or a background activity to elicit that same feeling. This is helpful to keep in mind when you are rewriting/revising your work as well.

So, for today’s prompt, write a poem or a piece of short fiction that features setting and/or description. You may want to post a bit of dialogue that you’ve broken up using the above-mentioned technique.

How to participate? Simply post your submission on your blog, then access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this page. Add your name and the direct URL of your post, and voila–you’re in. Kindly take the time to visit and comment on other participants.

I will be on the road for a couple of days, so I may not be able to visit your posts right away. Thank you for participating and have fun writing.


Photo: Google Images

As we approach the end of the year and the beginning of another, a theme inspires me: endings.

We’re writers/poets, so we must be (better be) readers, first and foremost. How often do you succumb to a late night reading marathon and regret it the next morning when you have to drag your weary bones out of bed and face the day? Chances are, the author of a book that keeps you turning pages into the wee hours of the morning has mastered the art of chapter/scene endings.

I learned a bit about this from my good friend and writing buddy, Judy. She’s written a medical thriller and my first novel was literary/women’s fiction. During one of our critique sessions, she told me there was nothing at the end of the chapter that made her want to read on. I had pretty well wrapped up an event without any inducement to the reader to want to know more. I countered that literary fiction is different from genre fiction, but as I thought about it, I had to refute my own argument. True, the conflict might be internal rather than action-oriented, but it’s still critical to leave the scene and/or the protagonist hanging off the proverbial cliff.

We can achieve this in a number of ways, but here are a few that I have found helpful.

Interrupt the action.  Avoid allowing a scene to come to a logical conclusion. Set up the narrative so that the reader knows something important is about to happen, but leave her dangling. Here’s an example from that recently-published first novel, “Winter is Past” in which Claire has to make a phone call that she dreads facing:

I punched in the numbers and held my hand on my chest as though to slow down my racing heart. Maybe she won’t be home, I hoped. She answered on the second ring.

By leaving the call incomplete, I invited the reader into the next scene. If I had continued through to its conclusion, that would allow her to close the book, turn off the light and go to sleep–maybe never to return.

Close the scene with a question. I find this works well in literary fiction where, as you know, the protagonist is plowing her way through a series of internal conflicts. Let’s look at another example from “Winter is Past.” Claire’s mother is on the verge of disclosing a family secret:

“I’ll do better now, I promise. It’s just that . . .” she fell back into silence. “Oh, never mind. It’s not important right now—we’ll talk another time.”

When? I wondered. And about what?

Complete the chapter scene with a promise. In this example, one of the characters is withholding information from another:

The dogs nabbed milk bones from the floor as I released control and eased into my husband’s embrace. “What do you have planned?”

“I’ll tell you in the morning. Just get a good night’s rest, okay? Come on, dogs; last call to go outside.”

Interrupt a scene in the middle of an unresolved emotional climax. Raise the question, What is she going to do about it?

By the time I met Josh downstairs, that dull ache had returned to the back of my head. I faked a smile that made me feel like a clown hidden behind makeup. “Let’s go,” I said, trying to squash the emotions still raging inside.

Those of us who write fiction may want to browse the work of our favorite authors and take a look at the chapter endings. What techniques have they used to keep us moving through the book? Now, lets look at one of our own manuscripts and see if there’s anything we can apply to our work to keep the reader turning the page.

While this post seems to apply more to fiction than poetry, take a look at some poems that offer endings that surprise. I ran across one today by Sheila Moore, posted for dVerse OLN on Tuesday that meets the bill. Endings offer poets fertile ground for ideas: death, ending of a relationship, meeting a life goal.

For today’s writing prompt consider one of the following:

  • Write a poem or a piece of short fiction about an ending. You may want to reflect on the ending of 2011.
  • Share a chapter or piece of short fiction with an ending that induces the reader to want to know more.
  • Write a poem with a surprise ending.
  • If anyone takes the challenge to review your own work in progress and revise it based on the idea of tantalizing the reader, you may want to share the result with us. Include both the first write and the revision if you like.

To participate:

    • Post your poem or story on your blog.
    • Copy and paste the URL into the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post. Be sure to include your name.
    • Visit other participants and offer your comments.
    • Enjoy.

I wish everyone a blessed and peaceful New Year. That is what I wish for our poor world, as well. If I’m absent next week, it’s because I will be in the midst of travel. While I plan on posting, timing and Internet connections will be the bosses.

Write2Day–Finding the Muse

Hesiod and the Muse

Image via Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a poll, asking which day of the week would serve best for a post combining my on-going features about writing technique, trends and prompts (Monday Morning Writing Prompt and Wordsmith Wednesday). Wednesday afternoon to Thursday took top spot. Several of you told me to go with whatever works best for me, so there may be some variance from time-to-time.

In today’s ponderings, I’d like to explore a topic I’ll call, Finding the Muse. It’s a topic that’s been a recurrent visitor to my blog because, from time-to-time we (should I say I?) need a kick in the butt to jumpstart truly creative writing.

Quantity writing can be a symptom of a complusive disorder…especially if that writing lacks quality. There are times when we need to find balance between writing and not-writing, with the goal of using that downtime to nurture the muse. Writing is a priority in our lives, but it isn’t the whole story. To be a good writer, in my opinion, it’s important to do more than write. We need to conceive our work before taking up pen and paper, and we need to hone the work once it’s completed.

Here are a few outside-of-writing considerations to help produce quality poetry and/or prose:

  • Write what you know, but go out and learn something new so you have more to write about. Take a class, read, consult experts in other fields, learn a new hobby or skill, spend a day with someone on the job.
  • Meet and interview people who have a different take on life. Write from a point of view that differs from your own, read essays and op-ed pieces. Explore other religions.
  • Travel. If you can’t afford to take a trip, watch travelogues, jump on the Internet and go new places. The world can come to us through our monitors.
  • Read something from a different era or country. Pick up a book or watch a movie that packed full of adventures you’ll never experience in your own life situation. Do whatever you need to in order to get out of the confines of your day-to-day existence.
  • Take time to notice the details of life that is within your scope of living but that you tend to ignore. Observe the baristas at Starbucks. Watch the chefs in a diner or pizza joint. Take a field trip to a brewery, a manufacturing facility or warehouse.
  • Invite your imagination to go on a date with you. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Stay home and daydream.

For this week’s prompt, chose one of the above suggestions and write whatever came out of that experience. Write poetry or prose. Make a list. Share a journal entry. Whatever. If you’re stuck in the quagmire of writer’s block or mediocre writing (like I am) this may be just the Rx you need.

To join in:

  • Share the results on your blog.
  • Copy your URL, access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post. Share your name and paste your URL
  • Visit and comment on other blogger’s work.
  • Extend an invitation to one or more of your favorite blogger to join us.
  • Have fun.

The link will be open until a new Write2Day is posted.

Image: Hesiod and the Muse: Public Domain

Wordsmith Wednesday–Sensory Description: Sight

Eyes of the predator

Image by piyushthacker via Flickr

Perhaps the most obvious and available sense for most of us is the sense of sight. You will find that visual descriptions in good poetry or prose abound. They are crisp and detailed. In prose, many of us use sight as a break in dialogue so that the reader will not become bored with back-and-forth bantering between characters. Visual stimuli often lend themselves to metaphors or similes, as well.

We spoke before about the usefulness of maintaining a writing journal, of taking the time to jot down particulars of things we notice throughout the day. A number of my poems have emerged in this way–especially those taken from nature. That’s a bonus of those almost-daily walks along the river with the dogs. Take note of what you see.

Another useful practice is to clip images from magazines or save photos in a computer file that will rouse the muse. I have an index box of these and when I have trouble jump-starting my writing, I can turn to my box and randomly pull out an index card with the attached image to get the words flowing.

For today’s prompt, I’d like you to take a moment, glance around you and focus on something you will describe in detail. Go outside if you prefer, or go anywhere…just latch on to a piece of your environment, or a person, and describe it in poetry or prose.

If you like, take it a step further and use your observations to create a metaphor or analogy as I have in this poem:


He sits, unmoving,
front and center:
elderly, rough-hewn, used.

Dark striae traverse his visage
like ripples of a lake
kissed by wind.

Crumbs of food settle within
the crevices of his face.
Glassy eyes reflect candle-glow.

A crumpled sports page rests
on his lap beside the TV remote.
Scratches mar his skin.

He bears the weight of years,
unnoticed most of the time,
rarely caressed by loving hands.

He’s watched our lives unfold.
Strong, like us,
Our coffee table endures.

Ooops. Forgot Mr. Linky. You know the routine.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Taste

Monastic cellarer tasting wine, from Li Livres...

Image via Wikipedia

Returning to the theme of sensory description, let’s consider the importance of the sense of taste. I think about the depth and richness that food adds to our lives…I think of it twice a day when I feed my dogs their “nutritious” dry food, wondering how it would be to eat the same thing day in and day out. I think of it when I remember my dad, as he neared the end of his life and suffered from neurological changes that affected his ability to enjoy his food. And I think of it as I savor the wonderful meals my husband prepares for me.

It’s obvious that food reporters have the knack to describe tastes: rich, pungent, sweet, tangy, bitter, and so on. I love reading wine magazines that use luscious descriptions to describe the fruitiness, the oak, the earthiness of their tastings. Consider as well, how taste can be a metaphor for personality: feisty as a hot pepper, smooth as honey, bland as Pablum.

Take some time to read some of your own writing, whatever the genre, and see if you’ve incorporated taste and how it brings life to your work. On the other hand, you might want to grab a scene or a stanza that just isn’t working and spice it up by incorporating the marvelous gift of taste.

I’m adding Mr. Linky so that you can share the results with us. Just post your poem, short story or essay to your blog, access Mr. Linky and fill in your name, paste the link to your post then take a few moments to read other submissions.

This week, I will add a short story that I wrote a few years ago. My previous post, a poem titled “a taste of earth,” might fit the bill as well.

Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Sensory Description, Hearing


Image by me'nthedogs via Flickr

Those of you who’ve followed this series for a while know that I have a fixation on sensory description. I’m not sure how many Wordsmith Wednesday posts have addressed this subject, but it’s right up there on top.

Whatever genre you write, sensory description will enrich your narrative. This simple technique allows the reader to engage, to become a part of the scene.

Today, I’d like to focus on just one sense…that of hearing. At a recent church service, a newly ordained lay deacon preached one of his first sermons. He spoke of a couple of men walking down the street when one of them said, “Isn’t that sound of the crickets beautiful.” The other replied, “What sound?” The deacon went on to tell of the first man dropping a quarter on the sidewalk and everyone in the vicinity stopped and looked for the money. He concluded by saying, “You only hear what you listen for.”

I’d like to suggest that, as writers, it will serve us well to form the intention to listen to the sounds that surround us in any given setting. Take time to jot down what you hear in your writing journal, then glean some of the richness of your experience to add depth and character to your writing.

For today’s discussion, look for an opportunity to listen carefully to the sounds around you, then write a short description, whether prose or poetry, to share with us through a post on your blog.

Use Mr. Linky to share your name and URL then take a few moments to read other submissions. You may get inspiration for your own writing.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Writing Journals

journal #19 random entry #2

Image by paperbackwriter via Flickr

Many how-to books on writing and professors of poetry or creative writing advise their readers and students to maintain a writing journal. It’s a practice I’ve found invaluable in the past and, with good intentions, I slipped a small note-book into my suitcase to bring along on vacation with the hopes of cramming its pages full of inspiration. I must confess, however, that the book is as blank as the day I left home as dozens of splendid images slip away into obscurity. And thus my creative muse remains dormant. And so, here on this public forum, I resolve to pick up my pencil and write.

My guess is that many, if not most of you, adhere to this practice on an almost-daily basis. Let’s revisit the value of writing journals and consider some key points that will lift it beyond a mindless routine to a helpful tool for inspiration.

What type of things can be included in a writing journal? Here are a few:

  • Outlines, ideas for articles, short stories or poems, brainstorming;
  • Dialogue and dialect that you’ve overheard in public places;
  • Notes and observations on books you’re reading, TV or movie story lines–what worked and what didn’t;
  • New words that you read or hear;
  • Sensory descriptions of places you visit or people you observe, gritty details;
  • Personality characteristics of people you know or meet, character development ideas;
  • Possible setting locations in which to stage your scenes;
  • First sentence, opening lines that might lead you to a story;
  • Overused clichés and common grammatical errors that you encounter;
  • Things you see or experience that may serve as a metaphor or simile;
  • Photos and images from publications that tickle your imagination;
  • Notes about writing how-to’s and poetic forms.

I like to use a sketch book with almost-legal size pages to rough-draft my poetry. This allows for sketching, pasting and all kinds of creative experimentation.

Please join in the conversation in the comments section of this post. Do you use a writing journal? What do you journal about? How often? Any suggestions that will help your fellow writers?

We look forward to anything you are able to share.

Wordsmith Wednesday: Guest Post by Vivienne Blake

I’m delighted to invite fellow poet/blogger, Vivienne Blake, as hostess for this week’s Wordsmith Wednesday. Originally from the UK, Viv blogs for us from France at  I’ve been impressed with Viv’s creative spirit, her avid response to various prompts and the fact that her poetry is well-crafted. In addition to poetry, Vivienne shares her beautifully crafted quilts.

Vivienne Blake

Today Vivienne discusses the role of poetic form and its usefulness is tickling your creative muse:

Thank you, Victoria, for allowing me the space to sound off on a subject close to my heart, poetic form, despite it being a bête noir for many poets. I’m hoping to persuade them at least to try.

During my final course of degree studies, in 2009, we were introduced to formal poetry. The straightjacket of poetic form was not my scene, I thought, but resolved to try. As Bill Greenwell says, struggle is essential to writing poetry.

A revelation awaited me. The liberating effect of obeying the rules of strict poetic form went to my head. I had enormous fun with the Villanelle. Having written and discarded several villainous examples, I came across the words Duality Dichotomy, Debate quoted in The Ode Less Travelled (Stephen Fry p227): This inspired me to write about the rebellious mood induced by trying to write such formal poetry.

‘Duality, dichotomy, debate’
wrote Jason of the Villanelle,
confusion we must deprecate.
Do I hear you say to wait
and see what’s what? It’s just as well
duality, dichotomy, debate
are such a part of life, too late
their unseen influence dispel
confusion that we deprecate.
Now is the time to get this straight.
This vicious form’s a prison cell.
Duality, dichotomy: debate.
Subdue the power to create,
cause wilful poets to rebel
against confusion; deprecate.

Into your poem re-instate
the dreaded words that work so well:
duality, dichotomy, debate.
Confusion no more deprecate

That excitement was the epiphany which led me to a passionate period of experiment with poetic forms provoking me to search for examples, leading me to play with other forms such as ballade and rondeau. I found a site which has stood me in good stead: A guide to poetic form . I resolved to work my way through them all – a long way from achievement, but many forms have been tried and from each I have learned something, and exercised the thought muscles.

Last Post, a villanelle in iambics with alternating tetrameter and trimeter in each tercet was written from a prompt, I heard a footstep at my gate. A story clamoured to be told, despite accepted opinion that villanelles are not suited to story-telling. We are also advised when using narrative in poetry to keep it sparse, leaving something for the reader to work out.

This poem fell naturally into two halves: yesterday, irritation; today sadness. Most of the lines are end-stopped, reinforcing the story-telling aspect of the poem. With hindsight, I should have preferred more subtle rhyming, as in my first example, and I have since learned to use enjambment more effectively.

Last Post

I heard footsteps at the gate
and raised my eyes to see
the postman was, as ever, late.

I stepped outside to remonstrate
and take the letter brought to me
by shaking hands across my gate;

a symbol of the world awaits,
a letter from across the sea.
The postman was, as ever, late.

Today a stranger at the gate
knocked twice and asked for me,
with sorry news of someone’s fate;

so sad, you will appreciate,
he’s gone too soon, you see,
that postman, now forever late.

I turn away, disconsolate
then back again to see,
a woman mourning for her mate,
the widow of the postman, late.

I then tried a pantoum, but the result was a trite piece of doggerel – another of those going-round-in-circles forms. My difficulties seem to be a hazard of the prescribed form: I found Wendy Cope’s Your Mother Knows, (1995) from her collection Two Cures for Love, Faber. Her Pantoum is similarly circular doggerel with simple rhymes.

Political Pantoum

I am repulsed by politics
hypocrisy, cant, and worse, lies.
we should all believe in kindness
as such we keep the truth.

Hypocrisy, cant and worse, lies
prevent us reaching happiness,
by the antithesis of truth,
all partners to aggressiveness.

We never will reach happiness
if we pursue with selfishness
those partners of aggressiveness
hypocrisy, politics, and lies.

We must be done with selfishness
and live our lives in kindliness
care, honesty and goodliness
and be repulsed by politics.

The sestina – a spiral mathematical form, invented by French Troubadour Arnaud Daniel in the twelfth century – holds an idea captive, unable to break out from the rules. Six words, chosen empirically, fail to develop the idea. They remain static, handcuffed to a specified order, immutable. Arnaut Daniel wrote I am Arnaut who gathers up the wind,/ And chases the hare with the ox,/ And swims against the torrent.

I gleefully took up the challenge to experiment with variants of the chosen words, but without swimming upstream. I made a template with the key words inserted in the correct order, and this has proved a useful and repeatable tool. For a more comprehensive article on the sestina, see the dVerse Poet’s Pub at It is a good idea when writing a sestina to choose words which have homonyms, and can be adapted to form noun, adjective or verb. Breaking the strict rules in this way is part of the fun.

My sestina, again about poetry is in unrhymed iambic pentameter. I played with the core words, and avoided too many end-stopped lines, in an effort to disguise the repetition. The sestina is a meditative, spiritual form and with that in mind, this sestina reflects on my progress as a poet, and my commitment to poetry.

Sestina – A Love Story

I started reading poetry to learn,
re-awaken my old interest in words,
and found a subject I have grown to love.
The distillation of mere words into a poem
has aroused in me a passion which will shine
for ever in my life: a treasured gift.

This unexpected blessing, this small gift
is something that in future I will learn
to handle like a lamp, somehow to shine
its brightness on my wilful way with words,
illuminate them to create a poem
that by chance someone will come to love.

Greeting each new verse like a lover,
playing with it. Thank God for this gift,
this unrhymed effusion of a poem,
far from perfect yet. But I am learning
to choose, to blend, to manage all the words
until the form that suits them starts to shine

through the dross. The meaning has to shine,
brought to life with skill and care and love.
Meaning is a tool that hones the words,
a talented, sharpened chisel; it is a gift –
essential as a means of shaping. Learn
to use it prudently to make a poem.

My ambition is to write a poem,
shrewdly polish words to make them shine.
Metaphor, form and rhythm must be learned;
strict rules used with skill and love
until the infant poem is a gift
to move you, calm your fears with words.

Gratefully offered, sublime recompense, words
must be melded, moulded and teased for a poem
to emerge. Poems call for many kinds of gifts –
assonance, metaphor, images, synonyms – shining
brightly, all to be mixed in the cauldron of love.
To emulate this pleasure I will learn.

With these words I pray that light will shine
on poems shaped for you with love –
my gift to you is all that I have learned.

For today’s discussion, I’d like to suggest that you share your own experience with form poetry…perhaps a form that had you stymied but then resulted in a break-through of sorts. I am including a Mr. Linky for you to share your work, or, if you prefer, use the comments section of this post.

Thank you, Vivienne, for your enlightened post!