Category Archives: Sestina-Related

MassPo Challenge Sestina by Kolleen Carney!

MassPoSestinaWords

Back at our Massachusetts Poetry Festival reading, the six readers–Ravi Shankar, Michael Costello, Jade Sylvan, Peter Jay Shippy, Lewis Turco, and Victor D. Infante–each contributed an end-word for a “sestina challenge.” Could anyone write a sestina using the words radiate, code, tentacles, multiple, Salem, and word?

We waited. And then this gem from Kolleen Carney, who emailed it to us a couple weeks later.

“This was hard,” she wrote.

Well, we think it’s pretty genius. Her incredible sestina appears below.

***

All these years I’ve languished here in Salem
haven’t meant anything; I couldn’t find the words
for all the pain I’ve been feeling, there’s been no secret code
for all these hidden vices, addictions, multiple
diagnoses; I’ve juggled all of them at once, their tentacles
strangling me slowly, their hellish heat radiating.

And when I sleep now you tell me I radiate
heat like a furnace, hot dreams like Jerusalem’s
desert stretched out, sun beams like golden tentacles
burning the skin of my back. In the morning I have no words,
I can’t keep track of things, I check multiple
calendars, alarms, mark reminders on my arms like code.

If you examined my skin you could read, in code,
a map of my life, this sort of sequence that radiates
across my bruised body, a main line,  a train line with multiple
stops along the way: Boston, LA, ending in Salem,
and all these markings (since, what good are words?),
these razor wire scars around my thighs like tentacles

and lyrics to songs, and numbers. No octopus tentacles
or phoenixes or koi fish, each scale a color code,
their dead eyes unseeing and mouths gaping silent words,
all these marks in permanent ink radiating
my life story onto my body. Like the stone markers in Salem,
each a name, a hanging body, a chest caved in by boulders (multiple).

And how many times have I told you—multiple?—
that your love is creeping up my spine like tentacles
of some horrible thing, that the chill of Salem
has frozen all that was good in me? I tried to arrange the snow in code
but you couldn’t hold onto it, the heat radiated
from your palms, and you melted all my words.

So listen: All I have left are these words.
Burn me in a fire and you’ll see, you can arrange the multiple
letters that will fall from my skin, my mouth, burnt radiation
black—my soul. Reaching out, long tentacles
of smoke that stain your skin and spell out code.
Hang me from the highest branch in Salem

and I will join the multiple ghosts of Salem
and all my ever- words will be your code;
at night, my soul will radiate, my hair will choke your throat like tentacles.

Behind the Sestina: Alex J. Tunney on The Incredible Sestina Anthology and on “The Long Hot Summer Sestina”

alex tunneyAs most people who read these “Behind The Sestina” interviews know, we usually interview poets who are featured in The Incredible Sestina Anthology. While Alex J. Tunney isn’t featured in the book, he played a large role in its construction. As an undergraduate intern at The College of Saint Rose, Alex was there with Daniel Nester at the inception of this idea and the two have spiraled into madness together for several years.

We went Behind The Incredible Sestina Anthology with Tunney to talk about working on The Incredible Sestina Anthology, and to talk about his own sestina, “The Long Hot Summer Sestina,” that was inspired by the anthology.

What was your role in The Incredible Sestina Anthology?
I was one of the first editorial assistants working on the project way back in the summer of 2007 when it was still a project. I proofread, contacted poets, journals and presses for permissions and did some general office stuff like mailing and logging the projects process. Recently, I did some interviews and posts for the blog.

So this was during the “Long Hot Summer” from your sestina’s title?
That’s right.

What did you expect when you heard about an entire book just of sestinas?
Honestly, I don’t remember. I believe I did know about Nester’s work maintaining the sestina section at McSweeney’s, so doing something with all those sestinas must have made sense to me. I think I was just excited to be working on something that got me connected to the literary world at large outside of school.

Have you seen the finished product? Did it meet your expectations?I actually bought a copy at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene on a whim. I wanted to see if they would have it and, of course, they did. I just had to have it in my hands [you’re also getting a free copy in the mail soon, Alex! ed].

The cover looks great! My only real expectation was that the anthology get published. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Do you have a favorite sestina from the book? A favorite sestina poet?
For my favorite poem, I’ll go with Laura Cronk’s “Sestina for a Sister.” The nature of the structure of the sestina allows for a focus on things and ideas and this poem illustrates that very well. She’s able to render a great story because of the repitions force readers to certain words and objects.

For favorite sestina poet, I’ll go with David Trinidad. “Playing with Dolls” reminds me of my childhood, and “Detective Notes” references Clue and is also a brilliantly constructed sestina.

When did you first discover the sestina?
I probably discovered it while I started working on this project that summer. If not then, it was probably during a class taught by Nester the semester prior to the “long hot” summer.

During this sestina project you were inspired to write your own sestina, “The Long Hot Summer.” What can you tell me about this sestina?
I wouldn’t say it was “inspired” so much as it was assigned to me by Barbara Ungar, in the poetry class I had with her that fall semester after the eponymous summer. A sestina about a sestina anthology? I couldn’t pass that up. Of course, my life had managed to seep into the piece eventually, something I don’t think I could have avoided.

I remember hating this sestina immediately after writing it, especially the last line. It’s not Elizabeth Bishop’s “(write it!)” as it is a Marx Brothers’ punch line. I still have my issues with it. Having written about this summer twice—during the summer itself and recently for grad school—I know that I avoided from going further into what happened during the summer and I think the poem suffers because of that.

Having said that, I also tend to take myself too seriously and am perpetually embarrassed by my past self, so take that last reason with a grain of salt.

I do like things about this sestina. I love the flexibility the word “really” has throughout. I also like that the repetition of the form relates to the focus that comes with reading and, well, love.

Had you written any sestinas before (and have you written any since)?
No, I haven’t and I haven’t written any since. I tend not to write poetry because prose (mostly nonfiction) is the format in which I feel I can best express my thoughts and feelings. When I attempt to write poetry it tends to turn into prose with line breaks. That said, I am very tempted to revise/update/salvage this sestina.

You know as well as I do, first sestinas are always dedicated to someone. Who would you like to dedicate this sestina to?
It would be obvious to say Nester, wouldn’t it? But, I will dedicate it to him. I owe a lot to him.

I also want to dedicate to an additional three professors I had at The College of Saint Rose who were essential to my development as a writer. First is Dr. Ungar, who made me realize it was just as important to have a sense of humor about myself as it was to take myself seriously. Next would Kim Middleton who fostered my love of examining pop culture and gave me the tools to do it well. Last but not least is Cailin Brown of the Communications department, who advised me while I worked on The Chronicle newspaper and taught me not only how to look for the truth, but the importance of how it is presented to readers once it is found.

Continue reading

ICYMI: largehearted boy Publishes The Incredible Sestina Anthology Book Notes, Playlist

In a lot of ways, The Incredible Sestina Anthology is just one giant mix tape of sestina-awesomeness. What better way to showcase this than our very own Book Notes?

Daniel Nester’s TISA playlist includes everything from opera to the Lone Ranger theme song. For the full list, published this past Friday, click here.

lhb

Sestinapalooza: The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Blog Post about The Incredible Sestina Anthology

It was a big week for The Incredible Sestina Anthology publicity last week!

In case you missed this academic marvel, we were reviewed by Ben Yagoda in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Yagoda writes that this is the anthology he had been “waiting 40 years for… without realizing it.” His review includes the first stanza of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sestina” (maybe you’ve heard of it?).

chronicle of higher edYagoda also name-drops some of our great contributors, including Matt Madden and Casey Camp.

If you want to read the review in full, you can find it here.

Sestina Aguilera and Other Rejected Names for The Incredible Sestina Anthology

Pound_Ezra_Acetate_Record_Reading

The 39 Steps: The Sestina Anthology

The North American Bible of Incredible Sestinas

The Sestinas Book

The Anyperson’s Book of Sestinas

Spiraling Into Madness: A Sestinas Anthology

A Gathering of Sestinas

The [Name of Publisher] Book of Sestinas

Sextinas: The Best Erotic Sestinas

Fairly Recent North American Sestinas

Sestina, You’re Breaking My Heart, You’re Shaking My Confidence Daily

Sestina Bo Bina Banana Fana Fo Fina Fe Fi Mo Mina: Sestinas

Sestina Aguilera

Sestina Applegate

Sestina and the Waves

Sestina Turner: What’s Envois Got to Do With It?

Six Tinas, Mary!

Academy Award-Winning Actress Sestina Davis

Don’t Cry For Me, Sestinas!

Sestina Easton

Sestinas: A Bunch of Them

Loggins and Sestina