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Sestina: Complex Repetition Yeilds Amazing Results

978 words - 4 pages

A sestina is a poetic technique that achieves amazing effects through complex repetition. It is a thirty-nine line, seven stanza poem that repeats the six words that end the lines in the first stanza. It achieves this in very complex pattern of repetition with the first six stanzas having six lines each, and the last stanza being a tercet, or envoi, having only three lines. Florence Cassen Mayers is a well known American poet who commonly used the sestina technique. All American Sestina is a light hearted poem depicting the “all American lifestyle.” Keep Your ----s Off Me is a heavier poem that leaves interpretation up to the reader. All-American Sestina and Keep your ----s off me use the same poetic structure, and it is the use of metaphor and symbolism which draw similarities between these two poems. Due to the more frequent use of metaphor and symbolism in All-American Sestina, this poem is more accurate at exploiting these poetic devices.
Mayers uses metaphor and symbolism as key poetic techniques that underline the all American dream in All-American Sestina. The poem plays on the use of numbers. Mayers begins each line of the poem with a different number, the first word of every line in the first stanza being one through six. Mayers uses the pattern in a typical sestina to continue her number pattern throughout the poem. The poem is about typical American traditions, events and commodities. Mayers refers to specific events in history when she says “fourscore and seven years ago” (11), specific yearly events such as “Fourth of July” (38), and personal events like “sweet sixteen” (29). All of these events are highly identifiable by the average American, and most people can associate one of these with a specific time in their lives. Being able to identify oneself with a poem makes it a more enjoyable read.
Mayers uses several metaphors in All-American Sestina to convey certain ideas. “Six feet under” is a metaphor for someone who has died and has been buried. “Three sheets to the wind” is a metaphor used to describe extreme drunkenness. This usage of figurative language is essential to this poem because the poem is about deciphering your own meaning, and metaphors require people to think about the deeper meaning in the words that they read.
Symbolism is also an integral part of portraying the image of the “all American lifestyle in All-American Sestina. Almost every single line in this poem represents something else. For example, “two car garage” (2) symbolizes the typical suburban house with a white picket fence, two kids, and expensive lifestyle. This demonstrates the American dream that people need an expensive lifestyle with two fancy cars, and lots of amenities. Another example of symbolism is “three-ring circus” (35), which represents the chaotic lifestyles Americans lead. Part of living the American dream is having a busy life full of exciting...

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