I think I love how online magazine Swink calls itself “a tiny light in the gloaming of literary obscurity” because I feel I could easily apply that same description to myself. Anyway, not too many poets up yet, but here are three I like a lot, with sample lines that delighted me:
- two poems by Timothy Liu (sample opening lines: “I know your mouth better / than your husband ever will.”)
- three poems by Melissa Broder (sample opening lines to “Dear Billy Collins”: “If I don’t stop using / the word fingerbang / I’ll never get to be // poet laureate.”)
- two poems by Sandra Beasley (sample lines: “I type ninety-one words a minute, all of them / Help. Yes, I speak Dewey Decimal.”)
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.”