Sestina, v2
#1
Sestina


March, summer for suckers, fills the café
with those who dress in vintage, ration
like it's wartime, out of habit scream
into their phones, "What a stove
of a city! Who can raise a child
in this heat?" All while the old hyena

skulks for food. Here in Addis Ababa, hyenas
fill the streets at night, scavenge the cafés
and hospitals for leftover children
like beggars for scraps of himbasha. "Wasted rations",
thinks the beggar tending an old stove,
"all a mother's labor, all her screams

dissolved by stomach acid." Every night, the screams
of hopeless drunks and lovemaking hyenas
fill the air like smoke from earthen stoves
cooking charcoal to sell to the cafés
who serve their coffee authentic. Such fancy rations
for the tourists and their spoiled children:

imported coffee and himbasha loaves and the occasional child
to be brought back home and shown the wonders of screaming
into one's phone, complaining about such meager rations
as foreign bread and coffee! A hyena
grins -- "Isn't she cute?" -- while the café
drives away the beggar from their stove

for the tourists to take their picture. "Back home, our stoves
are powered by electricity. They're safe enough for a child
to touch, so long as she's not metal." The owner of the café
musses his daughter's hair. "Come on, stop your screaming.
Out there in New York, there are no hyenas
and you won't have to save your rations

like it's wartime." "Baba, it's not about the rations
nor the burns on my arms this ancient stove
has all the right to inflict. Are you sure there are no hyenas
where you ask to send me? Where none of the children
seem to suffer, where none of them cry and scream?"
The sun sets. The tourists leave the café

with their new child. The grinning hyena
rubs her back against the dying stove, her rations
lying in a pile behind the café. Another scream.

March, summer for suckers, fills the café
with those who dress in vintage, ration
like it's wartime, and silently scream
into their phones, "This world's a stove
run out of gas! Who can raise a child
in this climate?" All while the old hyena

laughs, skulking for food. Here in Addis Ababa, hyenas
fill the streets at night, scavenge the cafés
and hospitals for left-behind children
like beggars for scraps of himbasha. "Wasted rations",
thinks the beggar tending an old stove,
"all a mother's labor, all her screams

dissolved by stomach acid." Every night, the screams
(or is it laughs?) of roughing it (or living the life?) hyenas
permeate the air like smoke from earthen stoves
cooking charcoal to sell to the cafes
who serve their coffee authentic. Such fancy rations
for the tourists and their spoiled children,

imported coffee and himbasha loaves and the occasional child
to be brought back home and shown the wonders of screaming
into one's phone, complaining about such meager rations
as foreign bread and coffee! A hyena
grins -- "Isn't she cute?" -- while the café
drives away the beggar from their stove

for the tourists to take their picture. "Back home, our stoves
are powered by electricity. They're safe enough for a child
to touch, so long as she's not metal." The owner of the café
musses his daughter's hair. "Come on, stop your screaming.
Out there in New York, there are no hyenas
and you won't have to save your rations

like it's wartime." "Baba, it's not about the rations
nor the burns on my arms this ancient stove
has all the right to inflict. Are you sure there are no hyenas
where you ask to send me? Where none of the children
seem to suffer, where none of them cry and scream?"
The sun sets. The tourists leave the café

with their new child. The grinning hyena
rubs her back against the dying stove, her rations
lying in a pile behind the café. Another scream.
Reply
#2
Hi RiverNotch,

First off I need to make a disclaimer: I’m no formalist so what follows may be of little or no relevance. But I am somewhat familiar with the sestina as a poetic form or at least I was once. 

Re: The title of the piece, I’m left asking the question whether or not you really need to entitle this poem according to it’s literary form. I mean its format is relatively clear: 6 stanzas of six lines each accompanied by a tercet. That including  the repetition of the end word (retrogradatio cruciata) kinda sinks it, (although the pair of lines in each of the strophes do not add to 7). Furthermore, the poem is not penned  in iambic pentameter S1L2 by my count only has 9 syllables. I guess you are writing a more modern less formulaic version of the sestina. 
Some in-line notes follow:

Sestina


March, sum// mer for //suckers//, fills the //café//…   1
with those //who dress// in vin//tage, ra//tion. ….2……………Only 9 syllables by my count.
like it's wartime, and silently scream … 3
into their phones, "This world's a stove. …4
run out of gas! Who can raise a child. …5
in this climate?" All while the old hyena…. 6

laughs, skulking for food. Here in Addis Ababa, hyenas…..6 ……Addis Abba- I guess that we are in Ethiopia or is it Eretria. 
fill the streets at night, scavenge the cafés. …1
and hospitals for left-behind children ….5
like beggars for scraps of himbasha. "Wasted rations”,… 2
thinks the beggar tending an old stove, …. 4
"all a mother's labor, all her screams. …3 ….The lexical repetition holds in S2 but not in the rest of the strophes.

dissolved by stomach acid." Every night, the screams. ….3
(or is it laughs?) of roughing it (or living the life?) hyenas. ….6 …The asides in parentheses do not add to the poem’s rhetoric in fact they work to its detriment in that it took this reader out of the poetic flow and movement of the poem.
permeate the air like smoke from earthen stoves. ….4
cooking charcoal to sell to the cafes. ….1
who serve their coffee authentic. Such fancy rations. ….2
for the tourists and their spoiled children, ….5

imported coffee and himbasha loaves and the occasional child. … 5
to be brought back home and shown the wonders of screaming…3
into one's phone, complaining about such meager rations…2
as foreign bread and coffee! A hyena…6
grins -- "Isn't she cute?" -- while the café…1
drives away the beggar from their stove…4 ……This is one of the better strophes IMHO.

for the tourists to take their picture. "Back home, our stove….4
are powered by electricity. They're safe enough for a child….5
to touch, so long as she's not metal." The owner of the café….1
musses his daughter's hair. "Come on, stop your screaming….3
Out there in New York, there are no hyenas…6
and you won't have to save your rations….2

like it's wartime." "Baba, it's not about the rations…2
nor the burns on my arms this ancient stove…4
has all the right to inflict. Are you sure there are no hyenas….6
where you ask to send me? Where none of the children….5
seem to suffer, where none of them cry and scream?”….3
The sun sets. The tourists leave the café….1

with their new child. The grinning hyena…6
rubs her back against the dying stove, her rations…2
lying in a pile behind the café. Another scream….3 ………The images portrayed by strophes S5-S7 are quite vivid in depicting human trafficking..

There is much to like here with the dark undertones of the reality of the frequency of human trafficking in 3rd world countries depicted rather vividly. This is a chilling poem although the “sestina” formula IMHO detracts from the rhetoric of the poem. The sestina is supposed to highlight an idea--- but is constrictive in that it must follow a specific pattern and formula. While it does allow for the writer the chance to mull over the themes that obsesses them I think that if you want to go the formal route perhaps a “Litany” might IMHO better serve in order to hammer home the trope. Nonetheless this is a message well-worth the ticket of admission. Thanks for allowing me to tinker with this. Best of luck with any further revisions.


Cheers.
Beowulf
Reply
#3
Thanks for the critique! As far as I know, sestinas haven't had to be written in IP since the 1950s -- at least, I sorta modeled mine after Elizabeth Bishop's xD. I'll wait for more critiques, if any, before throwing myself in to revision, if necessary.
Reply
#4
.
Hi River,
impressive first attempt.
The main positive is the story itself, interesting and (largely) well told. The negatives are the end word variants (why is it 'ration' in S1 but nowhere else? And two 'screamings' out of seven? Three 'hyena' and four 'hyenas'? I think you could be more consistent with just a little more effort) and verses (three, and) four and five, could they not be condensed/combined?
I'm not that bothered by the inconsistent line lengths but it might be worth revisiting.

March, summer for suckers, fills the café
with those who dress in vintage, ration ................ 'full of' instead of 'with'? Are these people old or foreign, I couldn't tell.
like it's wartime, and silently scream .................... 'silently scream' is pretty bad, particularly as you go on to quote what was supposedly silent.
into their phones, "This world's a stove
run out of gas! Who can raise a child ........... a stove run out of gas (sound like a proverb, but) makes me thing of cold (first), useless (second). Not sure either works.
in this climate?" All while the old hyena

(I know it would mess up the format, but ...
into their phones, "Who can raise a child
in this climate? This place is a stove
run out of gas!" Meanwhile the old hyenas )

laughs, skulking for food. Here in Addis Ababa, hyenas ........ does it have to 'laugh'? It just feels so predictable.
fill the streets at night, scavenge the cafés .......... you've had 'fill the cafe' so any alternatives? And why cafés plural?
and hospitals for left-behind children ................. wondered about 'left-over' for 'left behind'. And why 'hospitals' (given that they don't feature any more in the poem)?
like beggars for scraps of himbasha. "Wasted rations", ...... confused by the comparison with beggars (who are not typically as predatory as hyenas, or able to run as fast.) And 'himbasha' is a Christmas bread (apparently), so what's the significance here?
thinks the beggar tending an old stove,
"all a mother's labor, all her screams

dissolved by stomach acid." Every night, the screams
(or is it laughs?) of roughing it (or living the life?) hyenas .... pretty poor line, very awkward to read, and the idea that screams permeate doesn't really work. Maybe a bit more describing the ciry at night?
permeate the air like smoke from earthen stoves
cooking charcoal to sell to the cafes ........... perhaps rework to include the type of people who are doing the 'cooking'?
who serve their coffee authentic. Such fancy rations
are for the tourists and their spoiled children, ....... shouldn't this be a period?

imported coffee and himbasha loaves and the occasional child
to be brought back home and shown the wonders of screaming ... 'brought back home' is a bit ambiguous.
into one's phone, complaining about such meager rations
as foreign bread and coffee! A hyena
grins -- "Isn't she cute?" -- while the café
drives away the beggar from their stove ............. apart from 'wonders of screaming' and 'isn't she cute', the rest seems like filler. Adds nothing in terms of narrative or colour.

for the tourists to take their picture. "Back home, our stoves
are powered by electricity. They're safe enough for a child
to touch, so long as she's not metal." The owner of the café ......... the 'so long as she's not metal' seems unnecessary.
musses his daughter's hair. "Come on, stop your screaming. ....... ' musses' is an odd choice, it doesn't sound like something a local would say (but what do I know?)
Out there in New York, there are no hyenas
and you won't have to save your rations ......................... I find this 'rations' problematic, it seems to be used just to preserve the form, not because that's how this person would speak.

like it's wartime." "Baba, it's not about the rations
nor the burns on my arms this ancient stove
has all the right to inflict. Are you sure there are no hyenas ........... like the introduction of the child's voice (would like more) but 'has all the right to inflict' is peculiar (who thinks like that?), but the next two lines don't seem quite as convincing.
where you ask to send me? Where none of the children
seem to suffer, where none of them cry and scream?"
The sun sets. The tourists leave the café

with their new child. The grinning hyena....................... this is just too big a leap for me. Between one line and the next the father hand's over his daughter? I feel cheated. Where's his reply/explanaton to her questions in the previous verse. Where's the (false) reassurance that there 'are no hyenas'?
I'd like to see a bit more of the father and daughter, a bit less of the phones and himbasha.
rubs her back against the dying stove, her rations
lying in a pile behind the café. Another scream.


Best, Knot


.
Reply
#5
March, summer for suckers, fills the café
with those who dress in vintage, ration
like it's wartime, and silently scream
into their phones, "This world's a stove
run out of gas! Who can raise a child
in this climate?" All while the old hyena

laughs, skulking for food. Here in Addis Ababa, 
hyenas fill the streets at night, scavenge the cafés
and hospitals for left-behind children like beggars 
for scraps of himbasha. "Wasted rations",
thinks the beggar tending an old stove, is the beggar cooking for someone like they have a job or do they cook in the street the rations they find.  Beggars and hyenas, children, some of the different people and metaphors confuse me
"all a mother's labor, all her screams
dissolved by stomach acid." Every night, 
the screams (or is it laughs?) of roughing it 
(or living the life?) hyenas permeate the air tthe parenthesis trip me up a bit, I think I get it, but they might be too much
like smoke from earthen stoves cooking 
charcoal to sell to the cafes who serve 
their coffee authentic. Such fancy rations
for the tourists and their spoiled children,
imported coffee and himbasha loaves 
and the occasional child to be brought back 
home and shown the wonders of screaming
into one's phone, complaining about 
such meager rations as foreign bread 
and coffee!  A hyena grins -- "Isn't she cute?" -- 
while the café drives away the beggar 
from their stove for the tourists to take their picture. 
"Back home, our stoves are powered by electricity. They're safe enough for a child to touch, so long 
as she's not metal." The owner of the café musses 
his daughter's hair. "Come on, stop your screaming.

Out there in New York, there are no hyenas
and you won't have to save your rations
like it's wartime." "Baba, it's not about the rations
nor the burns on my arms this ancient stove
has all the right to inflict. Are you sure 
there are no hyenas where you ask to send me? 
Where none of the children seem to suffer, 
where none of them cry and scream?"
The sun sets. The tourists leave the café
with their new child. The grinning hyena
rubs her back against the dying stove, 
her rations lying in a pile behind the café. 
Another scream.

I really like this sestina, the subject and arrangement, 

I reformatted it to see if the subject still held up, if the repetitions we're effective or forced.  I like the idea of being strict with meter or endlines for the form, or use the form as a stepping stone to a better poem.  I think there's no excuse for forced endlines if you aren't restricting your syllables or verb tenses.  Don't get me wrong, I really like the poem and am fine if you leave it.  Sestinas are some of my favorites to practice and justmercedes used to write like one a week.  I hope you give the form another go, and thanks for all the LPIA you've shared.
Peanut butter honey banana sandwiches
Reply
#6
Thanks for the feedback!
Cleaned up, per most of your suggestions. I agree that there might be a better title for this, I just can't think of one. I also agree that by the two penultimate stanzas, the people talking don't really talk like people -- those are the two instances I really regret choosing a word as particular as "rations" for number 2 xD -- but I'm not really sure how to revise accordingly.
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