Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, But I Like It.

Over at dVerse on Tuesday nights, its open link night [OLN] and I read something there that I found stirred something within me. Victoria, posted a Sestina, a form of poetry I had never heard of. To me, its a remarkable piece of work. the form is so technical and strict in its purest form, only by understanding that form and reading the piece over and over did I appreciate just how good, for want of a better word, this Sestina truly was. Without knowing it, Victoria had thrown down the gaunlet and I took it up with something approaching gusto. I was determined I was going to write a Sestina of my own. Lets get one thing straight, this is my first attempt at a Sestina and I dont expect or want congratulating, or a pat on the back, I want critique, I want to know why the effort is poor, which it is in comparison to Victoria’s. What can I do to improve it and why. Are the repeated words well chosen, or would something else fit better? Tell me as it is, tell me straight, I am a big boy now, I can take it  in any form you care to throw at me.

As per usual, when I am struggling for a muse or inspiration, I turn to my first love, music. I took Let There be Rock by AC/DC,

Lyrics here

I sprinkled in a little Hazel O’ Connor, Eighth Day,

Lyrics here

I also added a dab of 10cc for the hell of it,

Lyrics here

So I had to find 6 words that form the repeat, this was my choice,


I then copied the form from a website of how the Sestina should be constructed and that was so I was able to follow the word repeat structure properly. The syllable structure needed a lot of work and thought, that was possibly the hardest part. But anyway, this is the result of my efforts, in a constructional form, just how I wrote it yesterday.

A On the first day, man made laserbeam lights
B On the second day, man made divine sound
C On the third day, man made pulsating drums
D On the fourth day, man made shredding guitar
E On the fifth day, man made awesome music
F On the sixth day, he named this music rock

F Headbanging frenzy, it’s classical rock!
A Suspended animation, strobing lights,
E Horned fingers, salute powerful music
B The room becomes a cavern of wild sound,
D Axemen, thrash their delusive air guitar,
C Wild eyed chicks girate hips to pounding drums.

C The pace quickens, rhythm sticks hammer on drums,
F There’s more roll to accompany this rock!
D Fingers ambulate frets of piercing guitar,
A Shadowless figures absorb shimmering lights,
B Mouths form lyrics, devoid of word and sound,
E When did this become the devil’s music?

E Note the electric crowd, high on music,
C Mellow on rhythm, the pulse of tom tom drums,
B Doors imprison this boom box wall of sound
F No dreadlock holiday here, just hard rock,
A The band played on below their name in lights,
D Lead by a lunatic, playing guitar

D Picking his riffs, at one with his guitar,
E Jams and licks, the man lives for the music
A Stealing the limelight, shunning the street light,
C Thunderous bass backed by resonant drums
F The crowd roar their assent, they came to rock!
B A heaving mass, immersed deep in the sound.

B Suburbia won’t tolerate this sound,
D They shun the music man and his guitar,
F Stale pop pours from their radio, not rock,
E Rock n Roll ain’t no riddle, its music!
C But they don’t like the beat of jungle drums
A They are blind, for they haven’t seen the light.

AB You shall see the light, listen to the sound
CD Feel the drums, sense the magical guitar
EF This IS music, this IS what we call ROCK!

So there ya have it. Thats my first attempt at a very difficult form, in my opinion anyway. I really like the form and I hope this could be the first of many. I am not realy a form lover, I much prefer freestyle, but that was before I found a form I particularly enjoy.


16 responses to “Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, But I Like It.

  • Victoria C. Slotto

    I’m so honored, Justin. I’ve had no Internet all day today and want to take my time to look at it for you. My first impression is that you did a good job keeping the order of the words and writing something meaningful. I do want to spend some time with the iabmic pentameter and have a feeling it will need a little work, but between no computer and my little 5 year old Jack Russell who suddenly can’t walk and is in acute pain (and 2 visits today to the vet) I’m poetically brain-dead. It’s still Thu. here. Hope to work on it tomorrow. Thanks again for the mention. BTW, I used the word “guitar” in my first ever Sestina. It is a bear of a form.

  • Victoria C. Slotto

    Justin, read this over again (sorry it’s taken me two days, we’re in the throes of remodel and dealing with our dog) and I really love it. Although it may not be perfect iamb, I personally don’t feel the need to change it. To me, iambic pentameter tends to give a poem a very formal, classical feel and a WONDERFUL poem about rock shouldn’t feel that way. I’m not a huge fan of or knowledgeable about strict meter even though I try to use it sometimes just for the practice or discipline. Rock shouldn’t have to conform…that would be a bit paradoxical, don’t you think? If you really wanted to do something with the meter there’re lots of article on it on the internet. It’s basically 5 stressed syllables with the first syllable being non-stressed. In the opening lines, for example you have two non-stressed syllables but if you changed it to just “the FIRST,” dropping the “on” you would lose the terrific parallel to the creation story and that just makes it so good. My thought…leave it alone. Congrats on what I think is a great, perhaps non-conforming, poem that fits the subject. Let me know your thoughts, if you will.

    • Tino

      Collecting the thoughts and opinions of others, I am seeing this in different ways now. The basic idea is there, the principle appears to work well enough, but, there are many things that are not poetic about it, which have been pointed out to me and also make sense. I find it difficult to say what I really want to say within the syllable restraints, that needs work. Doing that will also improve my use of language, both spoker and written.

      Its a great form to tackle but there is much to learn. I think rather than trying to write it as a whole, a better, more constructive way for myself might be to work on individual portions, editing them before moving on. Trying to tackle the full piece in one go is very difficult for my limitations and that shows here. So now, one experimentation will be much shorter pieces, learning to say more with less. That suggestion made to me by someone else made perfect sense. I also intend [within time constraints] to read more short form poetry wherever possible. Again, that suggestion made sense. To write more using less, one needs to read more to enhance the learning process. There is more to take onboard, but baby steps right now is the way to go, not trying to make huge leaps forward.

      Thanks for your input, you know I value it greatly and I will certainly set aside some time to read more on the form and its construction, although ‘bending’ rules comes naturally to me 😉

  • Victoria C. Slotto

    As with all poetry, it is a process. This is a form I’ve only turned to a few times, and I go there when I’ve creatively “stuck.” A couple of thoughts. I learned in writing my novel that critique is valuable, important. But the work remains YOURS and it’s important, as they say in 12-Step programs, “to take what you like and leave the rest.” It has to remain your work and your passion. With my first novel, I listened to every single suggestion and tried to change it accordingly. That probably added 5 years to the process. Just keep that in mind. I see form, (like religion) as a tool, not an end. This is just my opinion. Secondly, isn’t it great to challenge oneself, to stretch just a bit beyond what we feel/know we are capable? The end result of this poem, as I see it, is that you’ve produced something that has almost forced you to grow as a poet. And the more you accept those kinds of challenges, the better you’ll become. I use “you” here…but I’m talking to myself, too. That being said, I need to try a villanelle…a form that absolutely stymies me!

    • Tino

      Thats why I love a challenge, it helps me improve on what I am already. Whilst I completely agree that critique can only go so far and that everything remains my own, I do value the opinions of others, especially those who I respect.

      i can fully understand how responding to every suggestion or piece of advice would increase the timescale of a piece of work. I shall definitely be keeping that in mind, along with everything else.

      Never tried a villanelle before myself, although I have read several and know of the form. Maybe that is to be my next challenge? And yes, the new extension of this blog is definitely, enough said 😉

  • Victoria C. Slotto

    Just noticed the name of your new blog…enough said! :0)

  • David King

    Sestina I’ve met before, but never anything like this. I’m blown away just now, but grateful for a new and such thrilling experience.

  • claudia

    i can just melt away when an electric guitar is played well…when the player and the instrument become one as you say…magical…

  • Björn Rudberg (brudberg)

    Wonderful ode to Rock music. and a sestina is just so right, I have made 2 efforts.. and I’m getting inspired to try again. Creating a flow and a movement in the sestina is the real challenge that I think you handle very well. Great job,

  • shanyns

    LOVE IT! Truly well crafted and love your flow within the form.Rock on brother.

  • apshilling

    Hey Tino:

    I’m with you on the Sestina: it is a form that I love to read . . . writing one?
    well that’s a tough thing to do but imho well worth the time and the effort because you can learn so much in the process and when you get it write it can truly feel like a THING that can be admired and pondered.

    my mode of working in form (which is rare) is to lay it down in terms of syllable count/rhyme/patterns etc. get it to a point of correctness and then
    pull it apart and rebuild with the poetic one stanza at a time: this is a lot of work and could take months, even years but when it fits it LASTS!

    as far as your first attempt goes I thought it rocked (doing the horns with my hands 🙂

    the reason I like your work is because I can FEEL YOU in the words:

    I can sense the effort, the love of it and the will, or drive to find something in the work and in yourself that you can be proud of and say “yeah, I did that”.

    I understand this mentality and enjoy to read it in others:

    all the best brother rocker! 🙂

    • Tino

      Aye, need to learn to pull my own stuff apart from the bottom up and sometimes start over, or at least adjust, so thats great advice.

  • Grace

    This is one form that I haven’t mastered yet as the structure blows my mind ~

    I like how you weaved the sounds of rock music into the strict form of sestina ~ I only like soft version, not the hard hard rock music ~ Cheers to you for meeting this challenge ~

  • Jimmy vs. World!

    I love AC/DC, and a good funky poem that goes along with it!

  • Lindy Lee

    Yes, agreed, rock ‘n roll is music. And, your writing is poetic.
    AC/DC? Cool cats…

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