I first heard about this poetic form after I read Neil Gaiman’s “Vampire Sestina” ages ago (and I’m pleasantly surprised to know that his is not the only example from SF/F/H). I’ve never actually tried it myself, but I’m not alone in being attracted to it in some way. It can quite delightful:
- John Ashbery’s “Farm Implements and Rutabaga in a Landscape” made me laugh out loud with its title and kept doing so after I found out it was about a certain spinach-eatin’ sailor.
- Sandra Beasley’s “Let Me Count the Waves” also cracked me up big-time, from the first verse on.
- Lloyd Schwartz’s “Six Words” is the sestina at its most minimalist.
- Jonah Winter’s “Sestina: Bob” is also a highly limited example of the form that works.
- The entire set at Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which pretty much demonstrates the quiddity of the McSweeney’s “spirit.”
I’d like to meet James Longenbach someday to thank him for writing The Resistance to Poetry. I’ve just finished reading the book, but each of its nine essays bursts with so much insight that I don’t think I’ll ever really finish “reading” it.
As a sample: the opening salvo that gives the book its title and general thrust.
And to think I was already so impressed with his The Art of the Poetic Line, which I read before The Resistance to Poetry. (Saying that reading the former led me to the latter is only half-true: Chad Davidson mentions Resistance… in “Got Punked: Rebellious Verse.”)
I struggle with the line, so reading The Art… was quite mind-expanding, too. Anyway, more about Longenbach in this interview, showcasing his sensitivity to the materiality of language and, by consequence, poetry.
Still part of my ongoing “organization” of the numerous browser tabs I’ve had open for a month or so now, three more links to essays I find interesting:
- “Zombie Economy” by Ben Woodard (originally written with the following subtitle: “Understanding Capitalism, Ideology and Desire through the Zombic text”)
- “Honeymoon in Disneyland” by Mark Fisher (moves from Philip K. Dick to Eurodisney to Michael Jackson)
- “What You’ve Done to My World” by Mark Greif (on Fugazi’s self-titled debut EP but also about the punk rock experience)