Monday, February 8, 2010

Big Ole Poetry Challenge

I was inspired recently by Eryl's post in which she discusses the meaning of the word "core."  She posted a drawing of the earth with a piece cut out of it to show the red and orange core.  It wasn't until I read this post that I made the connection between the second chakra and what is commonly called the core of the body.

I have also been inspired by Dan Gurney's emphasis on poetic forms lately, so rather than put together one of my usual convoluted essays, I decided to write a poem on the subject of the core.  I chose to make it a sestina, which is one of the most complicated forms to write.  The premise is that you choose six words which you use repeatedly at the end of each stanza, in a certain order.  You can read about sestinas and their intricate ordering here.

I've only written one other in my life, and it was handed to me by the muse in the shower one day.  This one, while not quite as easily given, was still not as hard as it seems like it should be.  I had no idea what I was going to write; I just chose six words that are interesting and relevant to me right now, and then it practically wrote itself.  There is something very freeing to me about writing in a strict form, the way strict choreography makes a dance more fluid.

I would like to challenge any adventurous blogger to play with this form, and then share what you came up with on your blog.  It's really a lot of fun, especially if you're a word nerd like me.  And I've realized that there's something about this form that lends itself to extraordinary magic.

Svadhisthana Sestina

If you're going to start at all, start from the core,
not with singing or speaking, but with quiet
breath.  Inhale and exhale the color orange,
let inspiration and expiration interlace
as the brilliance of the sun becomes the moon.
So begins the dance.  In and out, it spirals slow,

more than can be imagined, as the Earth was slow
to reveal herself, her galaxy home and flaming core.
As she circles round the sun, so is circled by the moon
in this constant looping stillness:  space is cold and quiet.
Look into the night - shawl of stars like lace
across black linen; on the horizon, a sash of mounting orange,

trick of light and proximity.  Thick hot orange
ascends to cold and clears to white, with a long slow
birth up the sky.  Notice these movements; they lace
together all that can be noticed around the single core
of your noticing.  Then refrain from vision and be quiet
in your desire, in your fear, as you moon

over all you feel you've lost.  Whisper to the Moon
and she will teach you.  Now peel and eat an orange,
one section at a time.  This is not a quiet
action; a scream attends each slow
tear of flesh from flesh.  You will find no core
in this, only a tough and tangled lace.

Without washing the juice from your fingers, lace
them together.  You are cupping the moon.
Resting your hands in your lap, close to your core,
simply digest.  The food becomes your blood, scent of orange
your remembrance.  Let your heartbeat slow
until it too is consumed, its work quiet.

Here is the only place there is, this quiet,
where all things emerge and interlace.
You may speak now, but let your words form slow.
They must ever recall the solid moon
and illusive sun, that dismembered orange,
the things you've never touched, galaxy to molten core.

Spent now is the slow night with its quiet
shades, and once again the moon dissolves like ancient lace
into blue sky, green earth, orange sun.  Into your fiery core.


  1. Amazing! A brilliantly shining sestina, evocative and entrancing. And all with the same six words!

    That's an intriguing challenge. I reckon I might give it a try here. Let me come up with something and I'll be back.

  2. WOW!! Taking Postman's word: amazing!

  3. You certainly do seem to have been liberated by the strict form: wonderful!

    I half want to try it, and half want to run away.

  4. Jenny and Eryl - Thank you!

    And Eryl, thanks for inspiring this. You really should try it - it's fun!

  5. HI Polly

    I have printed out your sestina and am taking it home to savour...I will get back to you anon...

    Dan has also been inspiring me...wonderful man that he is...

    Happy days

  6. The gauntlet was thrown, but am I the one who should pick it up? Maybe someone else will come along and pick it up for me. I'll just sit here and wait...

  7. I haven't read enough of your blog yet, but so far I really like your "convoluted" essays. But the poetic form is beautiful, too.

    So glad you left a comment and that I know you're here!

  8. Kat - do you write poetry at all? You're so good with words, I wouldn't be surprised if you have poetic ability in there too.

    Reya - Thanks for visiting, and for the compliments!

  9. know I will be taking this challenge upon me and I already have my words...they were written for no apparent reason last week some time as I was pondering my need for RETREAT!


    I am so EXCITED.

  10. WOW. This Sestina is WONDERFUL.

    "Now peel and eat an orange,
    one section at a time. This is not a quiet
    action; a scream attends each slow
    tear of flesh from flesh. You will find no core
    in this, only a tough and tangled lace." much said in this for me.

  11. Jennifer, you are really just too cute.

    That's so cool that you already have your words. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

  12. Such a beautiful poem, intricate and lilting. You have such a gift with words...images and depth abound! I have never attempted a sestina, though I have thought about it. It's a mesmerizing form...and your poem was mesmerizing too. I already want to read it again.

    I am remembering that I wrote an orange poem years back...I will have to find it and post. (Interestingly, I also posted a poem today...)

  13. Thank you! Mesmerizing is a great word for this form.

    I would love to see your orange poem!

  14. I'm taking a crack at my first sestina on the 13th. Keep an eye out...

  15. Do I write poetry?
    I'd write a poem if you asked me too,
    I guess it would be the thing to do.
    My hair is brown and my eyes are blue.
    Scooby says doobie-doo.
    Ta da!



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