I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

29 April 2009

Anti-Sestina Poem / Mothers and Sons (April Challenge 28)

Prompt: Write a sestina and/or a poem about the sestina form.

Anti-Sestina Poem

Kipling did it, Pound did it,
half the poets around did it –
but let’s not try doing it,
let’s not write sestinas.

John Ashbery did it, Elizabeth Bishop did it,
Dante, Petrarch and Philip Sidney did it.
But why should I do it?
I don’t like sestinas!

(However I did it, and here's the result:)

Mothers and Sons

The neighbour’s been out drinking tonight.
Now he is home, yelling at his mother.
My husband wants to call the police
but I hear her standing up for herself.
As far as we know he’s not violent.
It’s an old grudge from when he was a child.

I know what it’s like. I have a child
who used to drink late into the night,
sometimes barely restraining his violent
rage against me, the evil mother
who lied to him and even to herself –
or so he believed, becoming my thought police.

He’s the one I can never please,
although he was a sweet and loving child
and we thought had sufficient love for himself
also, but now his moods can be dark as night.
I’ve been in the place of that other mother.
Her son’s yelling is a kind of violence.

And violence unfortunately begets violence.
In my case I almost had to police
my reactions, remind myself I was a mother
and this loud, hard man was once the child
who used to cry himself to sleep at night
after his dog died. My neighbour herself

has told me a similar story. She says herself
that her son has a soft and a dark side. He’s a shy violet
when he hasn’t been drinking. But Wednesday night
is his night at the Club. The local police
drink there too off duty, he’s often chilled
with them before coming home to yell at his mother.

Was I indeed a very bad mother?
I suppose we all wonder that about ourselves.
Isn’t it the parent’s fault when something ails the child?
I remember him broken-hearted, sobbing violently.
Now he never says sorry, he never says please.
I’m reminded of all that, as I listen tonight.

He is the child for whom I’m a failed mother,
and I’m hearing tonight a woman like myself
abused violently by a son she can’t please.


  1. even if you don't like sestina you made a more than decent one.

    it's a perennial issue.

    would say more but shortly I'll be late for an engagement.

  2. I don't really dislike sestina; it was just a bit of poetic licence for the sake of the prompt. However, it's not a form I've had much to do with.

    There were some very brilliant ones posted at Poetic Asides!

  3. This poem gets my highest praise.

    I really liked it and it moved me.

    I didn't notice it was a sestina until I read the comments. Which means for me it is a great sestina as there was no sense of struggling to fit the structure and neither did the repetition leap out as 'unnatural'.

    I'm impressed. I wonder if I'll ever be able to do anything like it so well? Don't think so.


  4. Aww! Thanks, Michele.

    Of course you could; you already do other things well. It's just practice. (And no-one ever said there can't be humorous sestina, btw.)

    Robert demanded one last year too. I hated my effort that time so much that I later removed it from my own blogs!