A Canine Sestina on Saturday Squawk

Odie (left) and Wally at the Dog Beach- their favourite place.

I belong to a small writing group that meets every Wednesday afternoon (except for the third one of the month.).  We play with words, grammar and talk about commas for hours. It is always a good laugh. Our group meets for two hours, then we go for coffee. We usually have a topic for the following week or we can work on something we’re currently interested in.  We rent a room from the Tasmanian Writer’s Centre in Salamanca.

Last year we played a bit with the Sestina.  Wikipedia describes the Sestina as:

“A sestina (Old Occitan: cledisat [klediˈzat]; also known as sestine, sextine, sextain) is a fixed verse form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, normally followed by a three-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern.”

I decided to write one about my dog Wally who passed away two years ago. We loved him dearly and he is still a part of our “talking” life.

First you must settle on the six words you want to use in the six lines and six stanzas.

I chose. Morning, Drive, Rain, Fields, Dog, Bed

Then I filled in the table that I needed to follow.


Finally I wrote the poem.  It was a great deal of fun sticking to the formula. The original sestinas required seven syllables in the first line of each stanza and the rest of the lines ten.  But that rule was relaxed as the years went on.  I would like to try my hand with that formula but I was happy with this one. The final stanza must have three lines with two of the words in each line.   My example is as follows. My tribute to Wally.

A Canine Sestina 

On a cloudy Sunday morning
I decided to go for a drive,
Let’s leave early as to miss the rain
That’s forecast for later above the fields.
Will I travel alone or take my dog
“Come on,” I said,” Get out of your bed.

My chunky boy get out of bed?
Who generally sleeps past morning?
Why did I think I’d take my dog?
The last thing he wants is to go for a drive.
He never dreams of rabbits in fields,
Though he doesn’t appear to mind the rain.

He loves his bath, the hose and rain;
Water never sends him to his bed
If coaxed he’ll chase birds in the fields
Evening time is better than morning
But he never wants to go for a drive
He’s always been a carsick dog.

I’ve never had a queasier dog
Who’d leave a car instead for rain
He doesn’t care about a drive;
He’s most at home upon his bed/
Each and every morning
He’ll be asleep, not running in fields.

Rabbits, birds and goats in the fields
Will never interest my little dog;
As I said, come Sunday morning
Though it’s pelting down with rain,
My dog runs through it from his bed
So he won’t be coaxed to go for a drive

The rattling keys signal a drive
And soon he’s off across the fields.
I’ve barely risen from my bed
When I must chase my dog;
And though it’s not a pouring rain
It is a very wet morning.

As my dog runs through the rain
Across the fields this morning
We change our mind about the drive and we go back to bed.


If you’d like to try your hand at this fun exercise or read more about it the Wikipedia link has a lot of information (here.)

















11 thoughts on “A Canine Sestina on Saturday Squawk

  1. That is a difficult format to sustain whilst managing to maintain the feeling and meaning – I am impressed!


  2. wow… great poem! i confess the complexities of poetic grammar have me baffled; i’ve tried memorizing some of the rules on occasion, but not only i can’t follow them, i can’t remember them either… still, i like poetry, even if i can’t figure out how they do what they do. great picture of the doggie beach race… Albert is envious(we have 8″ of snow)…


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