MathJax

Pages

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sestina On the Advice of Anthony Hecht

Poet:
As any form becomes canonical,
it virtually invites
experiment, variation, violation, alteration.
(A.H.)


Logic is an arrow––to the point, singular, literal . . . no detours. 
Metaphor is a map, full of blind alleys, irrelevancies, absurdities, ambiguities, multiple meanings, choices . . . interesting things. It lets you begin your story where you please––middle, end, wherever, it doesn't matter.
Taking you to the edge and convincing you not to jump, logic keeps you safely within the world you are given.
Subverting reality, distracting you to a world that may never exist, metaphor takes you to the edge, tells you to fly, and pushes you off.
Logic is a necessary connection.
Metaphor is an imaginary bridge.
Premise and consequence: metaphor and logic are inseparable––together they create art and science.

Internal Critic:

OK, then.  You know quite well that a proper sestina consists of 6 verses of 6 lines each, followed by a closing 3-line envoi. "On the Advice of Anthony Hecht" either is a single 6-line verse followed by a 1-line envoi, or it is six 1-line verses followed by a 1-line envoi. Or is it just prose –– notes for a future poem perhaps? Another W.I.P.-mask you so like to hide behind to avoid completing anything. In any case, it fails as a sestina.

Furthermore, each verse of a proper sestina must contain six distinct words that are repeated from one verse to the next; also, these repeated words must appear as the terminal word of each line. "On the Advice" has only 2 repeated words, and these never appear at the end of a line/verse.

Here's a suggestion: Let's generously accept "On the Advice" as a bizarre 2-verse "binary sestina." If we label "logic"=0 and "metaphor"=1, then the 6-line stanza begins this obviously unfinished poem with the word repetition order 010101.  This might be the beginning of a more reasonable structure getting back to something more closely resembling the sestina form we have come to expect.  So we keep what you have as verse A and work out the word repetitions as the structural basis for five more verses B through F.  Then you will only have to compose out from this scheme:
A   010101
B   100110
C   011010
D   001101
E   100011
F   111000

Poet:

That's very helpful of you, but that's a lot more 0's and 1's than I had planned.  I'm not sure I have that much to say about logic and metaphor.


Internal Critic:

Well . . .

Poet:

And seriously––... didn't you catch the recap of all six key words in the envoi?


Internal Critic:

Well, no. I really didn't hear the six key words you think you "repeated" in the envoi.  But still I'd certainly have to pan any attempt to keep my attention through 36 lines with 18 logics and 18 metaphors, plus another three of each for a proper envoi.  But I have another suggestion for you.  Why not try actual, proper rhyming?  Leave the first stanza as it is, then in stanza B use, oh, I don't know, 0="pedagogic" and 1="petits-fours."  Then maybe verse C could use, let's see ... how about 0="trick" and 1="door."  And since we now have six distinct words in the pattern, why not go back and change verse A so it uses all six of these words––label them 1 through 6––one in each of verse A's six lines? Then we, I mean you, could riff on this pattern:
A   123456
B   615243
C   364125
D   532614
E   451362
F   246531

"New" and "different" are so overrated. You're brilliant. You can do this! Trust me.

Poet:

Uh-huh.

Internal Critic:

And it would be a nice touch––a tribute, if you will––if you could try iambic pentameter rather than the frankly quite ugly prose you seem to like. The public, after all, has come to expect the beauty of stacked iambs.  After all, they are the feet we've come to love.

Poet:

Uh-huh.

So you'll finally be happy if I write a poem using the exact formula concocted by a troubadour to win a poetry slam in some tavern in Provence 800 years ago?

Internal Critic:

Well . . .  But it will be your own voice, of course.  There's still plenty of good poetry to be written in ....

Poet:

. . .

Thanks for all this. Really. But I sort of like it just the way it is. Whatever it is.

Internal Critic:

OK. Your call. But one last thing–––.

It's not all that important, but . . .

       what were you trying to say about logic and metaphor?