Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ask Wednesday: Why so much sestina?

Psychiatry session in sestina

By Morris Dean

Doctor, Why do I so much sestina?
I think you like the poem's imposed order.
They're a lot like the Sudoku puzzles
in the morning paper. You like to piece
the numbers together and keep busy
and prove once again the solution's safe.

How do you know I want things to be safe?
I read your blog; I scan your sestinas.
However topsy-turvy and busy
the world outside is, poems give you order.
You're able to fit in all the pieces
you want to cover—just like a puzzle.

The word-sequence scheme is like a puzzle....
Your blog, too, you know, keeps everything safe.
Others venture and write travel pieces
while you stay at home and write sestinas.
A post every day imposes order
on the world and limits its business.

But indeed the world is way too busy....
A why for the attraction of puzzles.
They result in predictable order.
Failing to solve one is harmless and safe.
If you bomb out writing a sestina
you can just move on to another piece.

You seem to think you've picked up my pieces!
No, not quite yet: Friday's fish are busy—
the column makes the world a sestina;
its way of dealing with events?—"puzzle"
them. You make your own "adventuring" safe—
small risk doing your wife's asks to order.

There isn't anything wrong with order!
So why trash religion in a "Thor" piece?
It's other people's poem for feeling safe.
Michelangelo kept himself busy
sketching out and painting in those puzzles
same as you lay out words in sestinas.

All is in order, and you are busy.
Your life's sure, like a piece of a puzzle;
you're safe—inside your sestina chapel.
Copyright © 2013 by Morris Dean

Please comment


  1. I was reminded of Mrs Winchester. She lived in Cali and right up until she died she kept building on her Mansion. It went on and on hallways to no where. Floors that looked like they went down but were going up. Empty rooms everyplace. She did all of this to fool the ghost of the people her husband's rife had killed. She too found her sanctuary in doing. I think maybe we all do. (smile)

    1. My wife and I toured Mrs. Winchester's house when we lived in San Jose. Her poem, to continue the metaphor?
          As you suggest, maybe everyone has a poem.

  2. Replies
    1. I thought so too, Neophyte, and it was your mother who inspired it, indirectly. I broke for lunch shortly before completing and publishing the poem. When I told your mother I was almost finished with it and she asked me what it was about, I told her it was in the form of a conversation between me and my psychiatrist about why I write so many sestinas, and she asked me, "What did he say?" and I said, "He said that writing sestinas is for me like doing Sukoku puzzles—they're my way of imposing order on the world," and she said, "Oh, like religion." I realized immediately that she was right, so after lunch I went up to work that idea in (and even ended up mentioning the "Thor's Day" column) and finally noticed the WONDERFUL similarity between the word "sestina" and "Sistine," the ceiling of which chapel was painted by Michelangelo. This, of course, suggested not only the last line and mentioning Michelangelo, but also the inset photo.