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Transcript of Sestina Poetry
by Hailey Schilling
History of Sestina Poetry
Sestina poems are a complex form of poetry
Its form was originated by the Provencal troubadour of the 12th century; Arnaut Daniel
The word "troubadour" comes from "trobar" which means to invent or compose verse
The troubadours sang their sestinas accompanied by music
They were competitive with each other; seeing who could make their verse more complex
Sestina poems often had a theme of love
A sestina poem carrys a pattern of repetition of the of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi
Originally, the poems had a limit as to how many syllables each line could contain
Now, the lines can be any length
The form: (each number indicates a stanza) -
1. ABCDEF 2. FAEBDC 3. CFDABE 4. ECBFAD 5. DEACFB 6. BDFECA 7. (envoi) ECA or ACE
The envoi has to include the last three end-words in three lines so that all six repeated words are in the final three lines of the poem
Instead of rhyme scheme, sestina poets use the end-word repetition to create a sound that resembles a sort of rhyme
The Impact of Sestina Poetry
Well known Italian poets, Dante and Petrarch admired the form that Arnaut Daniel had created and practiced it for many years
Many 20th century poets such as Ezra Pound and John Ashbery also practice the sestina structure
Although the structure has gone through slight adaptations, the original form has not been changed a lot in the process
Miracle at Breakfast by Elizabeth Bishop
At six o’clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
—like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.
The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.
He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
consisting of one lone cup of coffee
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
his head, so to speak, in the clouds—along with the sun.
Was the man crazy? What under the sun
was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
Each man received one rather hard crumb,
which some flicked scornfully into the river,
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.
I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
A beautiful villa stood in the sun
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
—I saw it with one eye close to the crumb—
and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.
We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
A window across the river caught the sun
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.