Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25: Writing's a Bitch, Elizabeth Bishop, "Sestina"

Sometimes, writing's a bitch.  No matter how hard you work, how much time you spend with pen and paper, magic just doesn't happen.  I have worked on poems for weeks and ended up abandoning them.  In my notebooks, if anybody ever goes through them when I'm gone from this world, are hundreds of starts and stops.  Hiccups and burps.  Tragedies and embarrassments.

I've tried to write a successful sestina for years.  I've never done it.  I've come close a couple of times.  But I've never produced anything that I would post or publish.  That's why I've chosen Elizabeth Bishop's sestina tonight.  Because I admire it.  Envy it.  Would kill to have written it.

Not that Saint Marty endorses bloodshed for the sake of poetry.  Unless you can do it without getting caught.


by:  Elizabeth Bishop

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

I haven't killed for a poem...yet

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