I believe I’ve cracked it. The three lines of poetry that I have been basing my worth as a human being on for the last week are written. I am not going to look at that poem again today. I will not! A month ago, (or was it two?) I chose to torment myself by launching a sestina. Knowing it would be bad, with absobloodylutely no coercion on anyone’s part, I did it anyway. Sestinas have been with us since the late 12th century, you know. Oh, you didn’t know? You didn’t take a poetry class in college, or an Introduction to Poetry class as a senior citizen with time on your hands? That’s where you’d come across the form and that’s where you would have, if you’ve good sense, let it moulder. If they are written well, however, they are amazing. Dante excelled. Elizabeth Bishop wrote the one you probably read in that class you took, and my favorite so far was written by Alberto Ríos even though he cheated and skipped the envoi, the concluding three lines, that have driven me mad. Mad, I tell you!
A friend who writes fine poetry asked me why I went the route of using a form that’s been largely avoided by poets for about three hundred years. I told him that I knew a sestina would force me to constrain my material. I was afraid that if I began an unfettered poem about my ancestor, Marie Grandin, my 9th great-grandmother, I would wander around with her until I’d produced a bad epic. She was a French farm girl who became a Filles du Roi, or a “King’s Daughter.”Her king, Louis XIV, no less, paid for the emigration of eight-hundred girls to New France. They were to marry the men who were already there; the upshot would be a growing French population in Quebec to counter the flow of English settlers to North America. In 1663, fourteen year-old Marie was plucked from her simple life in Normandy and packed off to the New World to have babies. I didn’t know about this. Did you? Astonishing. Someone should write a novel about these young women. Someone else. I wrote a sestina. Yes. Past tense. I swear…although, I may have another go at it tomorrow.