Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Jeffrey Barg sings Shane Allison’s sestina “Mother Worries” at last Wednesday’s The Incredible Sestina Anthology

Jeffrey Barg sings Shane Allison’s sestina “Mother Worries” from The Incredible Sestina Anthology (Write Bloody Publishing), as part of the book’s launch reading in Philadelphia on January 15, 2014, upstairs at Fergie’s Camera work and insufferable giggling by the anthology’s editor, Daniel Nester.

Jeffrey Barg’s bio is as follows: Jeffrey Barg is a writer, actor, musician and urban planner from Philadelphia. He composed the music and lyrics for Wars & Whores: The Henry IV Musical (now known as The Ballad of King Henry), a Shakespearean folk musical, in the 2011 Philly Fringe. He can be seen this spring in Private Lives at the Spotlight Theatre in Swarthmore.

SestinaWatch Vol. 4: Polar Vortex, or, Some Shivery Sestinas

The polar vortex (the coldest of cyclones) is something like a sestina– a sestina of pure coldness– you know with it’s spirally nature and the repetition of single-digit temperatures day after day. So, I hope you all got or bought copies of The Incredible Sestina Anthology to curl up with during this blistery winter even after this vortex has passed through. I have two copies, which is good because I may need to burn one copy for heat because the radiator still hasn’t turned on in my room. [Update: Whoops! Forgot to turn a knob on the radiator. Still cold though.]

The rest of you should keep your copy (or copies) intact, because there are a lot of incredible Incredible Sestina Readings coming up soon and you may want your book signed. We’ll be in Philly on Wednesday. In February, March and April, we’ll be in New Yawk, Cambridge, Chi-town and Worchestah. Of course, we’ll also be on site for AWP 2014 in Seattle. And by we, I mean Dan and the nearest (local) contributors.

In the meantime, I found some great sestinas from all over the internet. As well as something else. See what I mean after the jump.

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Incredible Sestina Anthology goes on the road!

pointing finger

If you’ve been checking out the events page here, you might know this already, but we’ve added some tour dates for early next year! Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle: you are in luck. Sestina luck!

Details below. Stay tuned here for launch readings and other incredible events!

Sunday, November 17, 2013
O.P.P.: Other People’s Poetry
featuring Daniel Nester reading from The Incredible Sestina Anthology
Social Justice Center
33 Central Ave
Albany, NY 12202
Sponsored by The Social Justice Center
Facebook event page

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Drexel/Painted Bride Quarterly
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Upstairs at Fergie’s Pub
Ernest Hilbert and others read from The Incredible Sestina Anthology!
Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, February 1, 2014
New York Launch Reading of The Incredible Sestina Anthology
With David Lehman, Sharon Mesmer, Sparrow, Victor D. Infante, Patricia Carlin, Jason Schneiderman
Poets House
Ten River Terrace (at Murray Street)
New York, NY 10282
Subway: 1, 2, 3, A or C lines to Chambers Street Station
Detailed directions here

Tuesday, Feburary 4, 2014
Poetry Forum at The New School
with David Lehman

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
NYU Bookstore
Scott Edward Anderson, Patricia Carlin, Victor D. Infante, Jason Schneiderman
726 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Friday, February 21, 2014
Chicago launch of The Incredible Sestina Anthology
Quraysh Ali Lansana, Marty McConnell, Leonard Kress, Kent Johnson, Jenny Boully, Elizabeth Hildreth
The Book Cellar
4736 N Lincoln Ave #1
Chicago, IL 60625

Thursday, February 27, 2014
Seattle/AWP launch party for The Incredible Sestina Anthology
With Patricia Smith, Paul Hoover, Geoff Bouvier, Ravi Shankar, John Hoppenthaler, Sarah Green, Beth Gylys, Sharon Dolin, Nate Marshall, Tomás Q. Morín, Richard Peabody, Sonya Huber, Aaron Belz, Jade Sylvan, Kiki Petrosino, James Harms, Jeffrey Morgan, John Hoppenthaler, Jason Schneiderman, Sandra Beasley
5241 University Way NE [map]
Seattle, WA 98105

Behind the Sestina: Ernest Hilbert On “Hel[l]ical Double Sestina: [Metal Number One]”

ernest-hilbert Ernest Hilbert is the author of two  collections of poetry, Sixty Sonnets (2009) and All of You on the Good Earth (2013), as well as a spoken word album recorded with rock band and orchestra, Elegies & Laments, available from Pub Can Records. He hosts the popular blog E-Verse  and works as an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, an archaeologist.

We go Behind the Sestina with Hilbert to uncover the metallic truth about his poem “Hel[l]ical Double Sestina: [Metal Number One]” featured in The Incredible Sestina Anthology.

When did you first discover the sestina?
I’ve always known of it in much the way one knows what a soup tureen is, which is to say I was aware of what it is but never had much use for one. This is due in part to the fact that, until recently, there have so few successful modern examples of the form in English—Kipling, Auden, Bishop are exceptions. I much prefer the sonnet, a compact form long ago conveyed from Mediterranean climes and which took sturdy root in English. I suspect that the long, complex, repetitive form of the sestina proved a more suitable custom to a troubadour of 12th-century Provence than it does for poets today. It strikes me as a lyric form for musical performance, like common (or ballad) meter in English, but it’s quite a struggle to get one to work convincingly on the written page.

This is all to say that I imagine its repetitive qualities may benefit a song, but could appear to lack forward motion when read as an unaccompanied poem. It is therefore something of a dangerous proposition, not to be entered into lightly or often. I also suspect that it may be more suited to the Lengad’òc of Arnaut Daniel than to English, but Mr. Nester’s anthology proves that we now have a rich and living tradition of the sestina in our own language.    

Have you written sestinas before this one or since?
I never felt a call to write sestinas, perhaps because I’ve never found myself in a creative writing workshop, where I’m told they flourish. I welcomed Mr. Nester’s invitation to compose one, when he served as sestinas editor for McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies. Were it not for his persuasions and ministrations, I’m certain I never would have composed one at all, much less seen it in print. I am grateful for the occasion.

In the midst of the ludic acrobatics I divided an end-stop word—“darkness” into “Dark Nes- / Ter”—in tribute to this volume’s esteemed editor.

Can you describe writing this sestina?
I happen to love heavy metal music. Since I am a poet and opera librettist, the outrageousness of the style continues to appeal well into adulthood. As a greasy-haired warehouse worker and dishwasher in southern New Jersey, heavy metal appeared to be the only unpretentious option for me, not only in terms of how I listened to music but how chose to present myself to a hostile world. The harshness and sheer volume of the music creates a protective shell. The metal-head image was like armor donned each day. One stalks about in tight jeans with long hair and a scowl and hopes to be left alone. The cops failed to get the message, but “being metal” helps one survive day-to-day when options are few and opportunities thin on the ground. It was our way of signaling our refusal to submit, our open rebellion against everything we could think of, businesses, governments, systems of education and discipline, against what we viewed as the obvious hypocrisies of society.

Stephen Burt has remarked that the sestina “served, historically, as a complaint,” its demands understood as “signs for deprivation or duress.” In that regard, it is ideally suited to my aims.

Did the subject matter of the sestina have an impact on the form used, or did the form have an impact on what you were writing about? 
On this occasion, the sestina appealed to me as an almost heroic mold into which I could pour the molten memories of my metal experiences. The language in the poem is purposefully loud, like a heavy metal song, clanging consonants, big vowels, thrown at a very high pitch, a kind of romantic agony, which would seem out of place in most sophisticated or “art” writing. This mimetic approach permitted me to really dive into the subject matter as if into a mosh pit. I cast it as an ode, addressing “Heavy Metal” as if it were a monstrous ancient god and I a lone chronicler alongside the phantom brotherhood of metal-heads, acknowledging the strange communal experience that the music delivers, the grim “us” and “we” of the hordes.

We stand strong. We conquer. We will not surrender. You get the picture.

I do get the picture. It’s also a double sestina, which is very heavy metal.
“Hel[l]ical Double Sestina: [Metal Number One]” begins with an overture in iambic pentameter, in honor of Thomas Gabriel Warrior’s tetrameter lyrics for Celtic Frost songs like “The Usurper” and “Jewel Throne” (“Lend me your steel, rearing hand, / So I may reign the Jewel Throne. / My soul feels the gods’ demand”), which in turn owe much to the fantasy verse and fiction of Robert E. Howard (I have lately entered into his Conan saga). I sought to quote the style of lyrics used by 1980s extreme metal bands like Venom and Slayer. The poem then grows increasingly ragged—metrically bumpy and rhetorically tangled—in a nod to Ezra Pound’s 1920 modernist masterwork “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” in which whole rhymes and identifiable meter in earlier stanzas gradually give way to free verse in order to instill a sense of cultural dislocation and personal disillusionment inaugurated by the modern age.   My modest contribution to this anthology consists of two sestinas, helically twined. I hauled out my OED and magnifying glass to find one word, “eesome,” which I misuse slightly, as it is intended to refer to an object that appears to be beautiful, though I apply it to describe the beautiful sirens’ song, which fails, of course, to lure the Viking ship, so we have an example of synesthesia. I want the sound of the poem to pound the reader’s eardrums like a long heavy-metal tour-de-force like “Master of Puppets” by Metallica (Metallica song titles are buried throughout the poem, along with one by Exodus). The result is a kind of mock-epic, with unapologetic word play and grand gestures, yet I hope the humble honesty and sadness that underlie the poem remain in evidence.

According to the internet, Eric Bohnenstiel is a “pathetic metal expert” on VH1. Is that why you dedicated your poem to him?
Not at all. Shows what the internet knows. He’s a good friend of mine, and if you remove “pathetic,” the epithet sticks just fine. He knows more about heavy metal than anyone I’ve ever known, which is really saying something. I dedicated it to him because the theme of the poem is one I thought he might admire. The “pathetic” bit was surely posted some envious jackass. Love live metal. Horns up!

Interview Conducted by Jessica Furiani