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Poetry Magnum Opus

Winter Hermit (Talve erak)


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The image in the URL is what inspired the theme. The style of sestina has been modified. The end words do not enfold, but are instead rearranged like this:









envoi: 16/54/32




Indifference, acceptance, and rejection -- all welcome.



Her young pines stand blue in winter,

Not white; this is but illusion.

Their branches spread, a liturgy

Of arms accepting the sky's grace;

So little of the welkins seen

At the dark forest's crunching floor.


From the warmth of her cottage floor,

And a hearth to battle winter,

Baking bread is no illusion.

She has kneaded a liturgy

Of dough which will rise into grace

To bless this silent, frosty scene.


She is alone but will be seen

At season's change to sweep the floor

Clean of the phantoms of winter.

Her pantry is no illusion;

Her provisions, a liturgy

Praising refrigerated grace.


She will not emerge from this grace

Until the snows have left the scene:

Books will be strewn about the floor,

Almanacs and guides to winter,

Poetry, and more allusion

Than she knows to mere liturgy.


This, an unnoticed liturgy,

This binding to God through the grace

Of quarried stones by folk unseen

- Yet by eyeless books on her floor! -

Will redeem this hermit winter

and her blue pines of illusion.


She thinks we are the illusion;

Dreads even the word liturgy;

Doubts even that these stones of grace

Can still be loved and known and seen

By the same God from forest floor

To hidden welkins of winter.


She'll hermit winter on the floor,

Greedy in both the scene and grace

Of liturgy and illusion.


November 2012

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You have done very well with this. I like the theme which allows you a certain flexibility of imagery. Sestina is one of the most difficult forms to write in-- and one has to be very careful of the choice of line end-words. They can be highly effective or result in poetic drudgery (although I have seen them rhymed, which I'm sure puts them out of context). This reads smoothly but one becomes increasingly aware of "liturgy"-- (perhaps you meant this)-- because it's not in most people's daily vocabulary and tends to stand out. A friend of mine once wrote a sestina on Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp" in iambic pentameter. She deserves a medal as big as a pancake for the diligence it must have taken. B. :smile:

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First, thanks!


Pentametrical sestina? Medal, hell: Poet Laureate! And thanks for noticing "liturgy". There is one line I am even egotistical and haughty about:


She has kneaded a liturgy

Of dough which will rise into grace


I know that ancient poetry was meant to be SPOKEN, but this "kneading" was meant to be READ. And I did take liberties with seen, unseen, and scene.


Did you look at the image link? Feel free to message me privately. I absolutely LOATHE snow but this image was hauntingly beautiful, surreal.

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I have no experience with the sestina, but I love the poem. Winter imagery is my favorite of all, and this captures it succinctly, takes me there.


I checked the image in the link, too, and I love it. I can see how it inspired you.





PS -- Minor detail (Estonian lesson time, lol):


Erak = hermit

Talv = winter


"Erak talvel," means "hermit in winter."


"Talve erak" means (exactly) "winter's hermit" or (idiomatically) "winter hermit." I would suggest "Talve erak" for the Estonian title (with the second word in lower case as Estonians and some other Europeans would do).

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Ugh! I can't figure out how to change the topic title. But I thank you for the Estonian lesson! That image from Manniku was inspirational.

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The picture goes well with your poem and the season depicted. I wondered if "welkins" is a colloquial term or have you been at the Old English? It's similar to the German word for cloud, "wolke" (plural wolken). I've read the poem over and enjoyed it more with each reading. Oh and by the way, it's just started snowing here. :smile: Benjamin.

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I am nothing if not an Anglophile, Benjamin. Angle, Jute, Saxon, Briton, etc. Love the history from Alfred the Great to Henry 7. I might be lusting after Estonia, but I think I will always love England. Wycliffe and the Whigs: love me some radicals. Yes, I needed an archaic word. :)


Ye Olde English fit the bill.

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  • 2 months later...
David W. Parsley

A lover of poetic forms, I am nevertheless excluded from executing some. Sestina is one of them, at least so far. I always experience envy and admiration when I see one carried off well and this is pretty good! I like the image, I like the imagery, and I like the refraining 'liturgy'. Subtle and chilled just right. This one works for me, DC.


- Dave

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