The sestina is a poetic form of six stanzas of six lines of iambic pentameter, where the final words at the end of the line repeat in a specific order. It also has a final stanza (or envoy) where two of the words are used in the same line.

Tricky and difficult to write, the hardest part is figuring out which order the end words go. ( I used a spreadsheet from Fay Roberts that laid out all the final words.)

End word choice

It's hard to chose words that can change in context depending on the line. Homophones and words that can be combined with other words are useful (like key can become whiskey)

Tom Deinbgh suggests picking three words that are related to your subject and three words that aren't.

Other Resources

  • There's a good essay in The Craft about writing sestinas.
  • Josie Alford has a really excellent essay on how to write a sestina, including lots of good advice.
  • Loud Poets have a video with three poets discussing sestinas and how they wrote them.

My attempts

This page modified on 10 Jun 2021 at 11:37