Skip to content Skip to navigation

Friendly Sestinas

My project consists of nine sestinas, one for each student in the class. A sestina is a form of poem first invented by the troubadour Arnaut Daniel. A sestina is a poem of six stanzas with six lines each. The last words of each line repeat in each stanza. The first line of each stanza has seven syllables with each following line containing ten syllables. The poem ends with a three line tournada with each line including two of the ending words from the previous stanzas.


My poems were inspired by Arnaut Daniel’s poems. Each poem is told from the perspective of a different student, and the goal is to capture their unique voice. I chose six words that are associated with their personality or are related to common experiences or inside jokes. I like how this mirrored the reality in troubadour times when there would be shared knowledge between the troubadour and the audience that would lead to greater engagement with the songs. Many treat the themes of troubadours: music, adventure, far away love.


Literary critic Paul Fussell once commented that the sestina "would seem to be [a form] that gives more structural pleasure to the contriver than to the apprehender” (Fussell). Many have also noted that the sestina may be a more natural and satisfying form in languages other than English. I will concede that creating the poems did make me feel clever, but it will definitely be less interesting to others. I found that accommodating the ending words directed the poem instead of relying on a premeditated theme or story.


I was also inspired by poems by Elizabeth Bishop and Kurt Vonnegut who both composed sestinas in English (Ferguson). I looked to their poems for guidance on how to continually reuse words without sounding repetitious. At times, I tried to play with the different meanings of words. For example, I used “bio” meaning “biology,” but I also used it to mean “biography.” I used “desert” as the dry landscape, the verb meaning to abandon something, as well as the rarely used meaning of a group of lapwings.



Primary Source: Goldin poem of Arnaut Daniel pg. 221 poem 40

Secondary Sources:               

Fussell, Paul (1979). Poetic Meter and Poetic Form. US: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. ISBN 978-0-07-553606-2.

Ferguson, Margaret; et al. (1996). The Norton Anthology of Poetry. US: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-393-96820-0.













Melissa: And for what?

See I come from Miami

Soon you will learn that I speak French – barely

I lived in Wisconsin. That was tragic.

But to Florida I returned – thank God

No matter where I am, I’m still yo girl

Now my story comes - so be quiet ma’am


One day in France, I said “Ma’am

This shit ain’t like being in Miami.

Everything is old ‘cept this boy and girl”

So I hiked to this castle – barely

And when I got there, I prayed to my God.

I said, “Sir, this hiking is tragic.”


This story’s really tragic

So you best be listening up ma’am.

This story is all true I swear to God.

I followed some boy here from Miami.

He owns this castle on this hill – barely.

He shares it with six cousins and some girl.


Now what was it all for girl?

He treats you like you ugly. That’s tragic.

He thinks he’s got it all. I say “barely.”

He tells me what to do. Excuse me, ma’am.

This shit would never fly in Miami.

I will dump this boy’s ass – so help me God.


But I do love him – Oh God!

He’s running around with some other girl.

And he won’t follow me to Miami

I’m too good for this. This love’s tragic

If he comes back to me, I’ll say “no ma’am”

You had your chance and you took it – barely


I am sure about this barely

If he begs, I’ll ask for the help of God

I’ll tell him to go and he’ll say “no ma’am”

He knows that I will always be his girl

Oh! This whole situation is tragic

I really should have stayed in Miami


I send this barely song to a girl

Who knows by God that life is tragic

Dear ma’am please take this song and meet me in Miami

Arman: A Mountain Boy

Hark! I am a mountain boy

You might find this fact of mine ironic

I shall now recount my full history

Don’t be reactive – this ain’t chemistry

I might have to pause to grab a bucket

I also might say Bofigliano


I say Bofigliano

But I still talk to you as I’m a boy

Who can be found carrying a bucket

I also like things that are ironic

And ionic – ‘cause I like chemistry

Time for my tale of ancient history


I once studied history

Then I met a man – Bofigliano

Then – bam – explosion, total chemistry,

He taught me of the troubadours – oh boy!

And here is the part that is ironic

It even made me put down my bucket


He said, “Pick up that bucket!”

And fill it with troubadour history

They are gone but still here – that’s ironic

Then I had to say Bofigliano

Although I was still talking to the same boy

This was not in a class of chemistry


Far greater than chemistry

Is that with which I have filled my bucket

That which enlivens the heart of each boy

The ocean of troubadour history

Far more thrilling than Bofigliano

Please don’t tell me that that is ironic


This is what is ironic

That I wanted to study chemistry

When in the world – Bofigliano –

There are troubadours to fill my bucket

So that is the end of my history

Now I am fully a troubadour boy


So place this ironic song in a bucket

And forget chemistry and history

For this is a troubadour world and I am a Bofigliano boy

Uche: Y’all

You might expect me to sing

Or perhaps you believe I will dance

But you are sorely mistaken ‘cause y’all

You know that all of that would be nonsense

For I only ever study bio

That is the end of the story – goodnight


Did you believe that goodnight?

I was just playing with y’all. I must sing

Even though I’m devoted to bio

I will never give up my love of dance

Without dance, the world is full of nonsense

For real though, I wouldn’t do that to y’all


Now I have a gift for y’all

We ain’t driving, so I won’t say goodnight

The gift is a story – this ain’t nonsense

This is a mighty tale that I will sing

If you are lucky I might even dance

This is my vida – Sir Uche’s bio


I will begin my bio

With a story that involves all of y’all

One day I was doing a baller dance

And spinning in circles – but then – goodnight

I was so dizzy that I could not sing

I fell down and passed out – that was nonsense


But here is the real nonsense

-Don’t ask me to explain the bio-

When I woke up I did not try to sing

Because the troubadours had replaced y’all so then in Occitan I said “goodnight”

Ignoring my words, they started to dance


This was not a normal dance

They sang a song of nothing – just nonsense

A joglar I became on that good night

A more noble profession than bio

A joglar far more skilled than all of y’all

Now the songs of the troubadours I sing


So that is my song of dance and not bio

You believed that nonsense? Y’all…

I got nothing to say but goodnight. I’m still premed even if I like to sing.


Angie: Hot Troubadour Summer

Here’s a story – honestly

I think you guys will really like it – wait

First, I am having a hot girl summer

That is what we call it in Salinas

I learned about it from friends on Twitter

It means that I’m busy chasing the bag


So how do you chase the bag?

I can’t answer that question honestly

What happens on Twitter stays on Twitter

So to know that you will just have to wait

My story does not concern Salinas

It is about my troubadour summer


What a wild whirlwind summer

I came to Narbonne with a well packed bag

It is quite a long way from Salinas

But now I am so distraught – honestly

For my love is far away. It’s true – wait

Who is this far away love? It’s Twitter


How, you ask, is it Twitter?

It is my love far away this summer

Thanks to Ethic Etape. It makes me wait

Now I have let the cat out of the bag

I long for faster wifi honestly

This would never happen in Salinas


Oh wifi of Salinas!

How fast was my connection to Twitter!

Narbonne needs better wifi honestly

This is ruining my hot girl summer

It is impossible to chase the bag

When for every tweet I have to wait


They load slowly while I wait

I dream of the network in Salinas

Do you think they still use slang like “the bag?”

Or is everything different on Twitter

Now that fall has come to replace summer

This wifi is killing me honestly


While I wait, I send this song to my love Twitter

Give my regards to Salinas and hot girl summer

I chase the bag, but I do it honestly

Carly: An Awesome Tale

Behold! My tale is awesome

Although it is not as awesome as SLE

You can’t find this knowledge in any book

To find it you must go to a concert

The concert cannot be in Kentucky

Not at a competition of Wushu


I wish it were like Wushu

Because that would be really so awesome

Then I could practice it in Kentucky

Of what do I speak? It was during SLE

That I first attended their sweet concert

This knowledge could not have come from a book


Oh tell me! What use are books?

What good is the noble art of wushu?

When I first heard that sweetness in concert

That art was trobar and it was awesome

I learned of the great troubadours in SLE

I’ll introduce the art to Kentucky


They’ll be loved in Kentucky

I will make them read all of Gerard’s books

I will make them read all the books from SLE

For fun, I will also teach them wushu

That will make Kentucky very awesome

At the end we will have a big concert


Hark! What a splendid concert

We will have Fried Chicken of Kentucky

And on their lips will be the word “awesome”

We will take photos and mike a nice books

Shutterfly is what we use for wushu

I’ll show it to the other kids in SLE


My loves: troubadours and SLE

Oh the joy of a troubadour concert

I will incorporate tons of wushu

Monopoly property Kentucky

This sestina has become like a book

Which is avant garde. That Is awesome.


I send this sestina from a SLE kid to Kentucky

Please come to my concert bearing books

And please remember wushu is awesome

Jackie: Do it for the troubadour  

Can I please have a waffle?

I’m just here in Cedar Rapids chilling

I’ve spent lots of time studying abroad

But know that I’m allergic to peanuts

I hail from the land of California

And I really like a good online meme


Why did I bring up the mems?

For what reason did I mention waffles?

Do you care that I’m from California?

Who cares in which rapids I am chilling?

All of this to you must seem like peanuts

Perhaps I should speak of topics more broad


Why do you not think it’s broad

When I talk about my life via memes?

This is my vida and I’ll say peanuts

If I want – and I do want – a waffle!

Now time for a tale – harrowing, chilling

It starts in a town in California


Place: Stanford, California

I am no longer studying abroad

Water curtailment – no room chilling

The horror! This isn’t even a meme

I decide to pack up all my waffles

And travel to France, avoiding peanuts


The flight costs only peanuts

Then I’m in France – not California

I find something much better than waffles

It is the best thing at home or abroad

Someone should make this into a new meme

I saw a group of people just chilling


Who were these people chilling?

Do you remember Schroeder from Peanuts?

Or Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, the Eagles?

Their best song was Hotel California

Well, I found better musicians abroad:

Troubadours! My support will not waffle


So I send this chilling tale of chilling back to California

Where peanuts never go abroad

And every good meme is about a waffle

Emily: Waitress the Non-Musical

I used to be a waitress

But no longer for I took a gap year

During my gap year I went to China

To and fro, far and wide I did travel

I love to sing; I love to do theater

Don’t get me started on my love of wine


Today I will speak of wine

Which I brought to people as a waitress

Life is just a stage; the world, a theater

I learned that wisdom during my gap year

Along the path of light I still travel

Did I mention that I’ve been to China?


Such a nice country, China

However, in France, they have far more wine

One thing I discovered in my travels

Is the Broadway musical called Waitress

Have you heard of Broadway? It is theater

The show won a lot of Tony’s one year


I started Stanford this year

I got to share my stories from China

I went to an operating theater

But the surgeon had had too much wine

House arrest: he can no longer travel

He would have been better off as waitress


Restaurant Wars: Waitress

That is the name of my screenplay this year

Troubadour troubadour travel travel

These are the words that define me – and China

So please now be quiet in the theater

Listen to my presentation on wine


Wait! I am not done. No wine.

Please bring me another stanza waitress.

Break a leg as they say in the theater

My love is as large as the blimp of goodyear

My love far away, my love in China

One day we will meet. My heart will travel.


I have spent many a year in the theater

I have traveled to China

I have tasted French wine and yet I remain your faithful waitress

Isabel: The Walk

Let me take you on a walk

Sit down. Just relax. Grab a cup of milk.

The oasis will come from the desert

For I am the queen of California

Do you catch my drift? Speak my language?

Listen to my story. Hear my bio.


I like to study bio

But I also enjoy taking a walk

Hi or ciao depending on the language

Depending on my mood, drink melk or milk

The golden state is my California

The dessert of my heart is the desert


Don’t worry. I won’t desert

I only buy products that are bio

Or organic back in California

But listen: you must run and never walk

To the splendid land of honey and milk

That is Narbonne, France. French is the language


There, music is the language

Listen! You should fly there like a desert

Drink from the full well of troubadour milk

Forget chem; forget math; forget bio

In the footsteps of the troubadours walk

Far from the mountains of California


Oh my home of California!

We no longer speak a common language

For I have gone far and wide on my walk

I have traversed field and rill and desert

I’ve seen more than what one learns in bio

There is no stone unturned; no cow unmilked


So drink with me this fine milk

And do not return to California

Study troubadours; forget your bio

Please excuse me if I use harsh language

Here there is no mirage in the desert

So find your troubadour and start to walk


Send this song if you drink your milk and speak my language

From California’s desert

To the bio loving troubadour out for a walk

Simon: The Perfect Pitch

I like to drink my boba

And study all of computer science

What come naturally to me is music

Here I stand at the plate. Please throw the pitch

I cheer for my team. I cheer for Stanford

My name, what is my name? It is Simon


Say my name. It is Simon

I will wait. Say it now or no boba

Say it or my wrath will be felt, Stanford

Magic, love, feelings, bath tub art, science

Look! Here comes the windup. Here comes the pitch.

Bat cracks. Crowd cheers. To my ears it’s music.


I am so good at music

Listen, that is why they call me Simon

Simon excels for he has perfect pitch

Are you thirsty? I’ll get you some boba

Love is love is love. It is not a science

I fell in love with a girl at Stanford


Sadly this girl at Stanford

Had a husband who hated all music

Jealousy won over logic, science

He said, “I hate that man they call Simon.

I will kill him with poisonous boba.

Let us see if he dares to hit this pitch.”


All I know is life’s a pitch

That is what I’ve learned on the farm, Stanford

So the husband put poison in boba

And when I drank it, I faced the music

And that was the end of the boy Simon

For death cannot be thwarted by science


But cutting out a heart is not science

And a curveball is not only a pitch

He cut out the heart of the boy Simon

Fed it to his wife, student of Stanford

But first he peppered it. Oh the music!

Oh life! Oh death! Oh my poison boba!


Sing this song of science at Stanford

For perfect pitch is more than music

And the moral of the story of Simon is to beware of boba


The Other France: Troubadours and the Politics of Cultural Heritage
Project type: