The Incredible Sestina Anthology

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A whole book of sestinas? Are you freaking kidding me? We know. Hear us out.

The sestina is one of the world’s oldest literary forms. It’s also one of the most tricked-out and wacky: six words appear at the end of 39 lines over the course of six, six-line stanzas and a three-line finale. Since it was invented 700 years ago, people keep writing them.

Why? Because of the challenge it presents poets to experiment with a six-pack of words and a spiral-based secret code hidden inside.

For this incredible anthology, poet and editor Daniel Nester has brought together more than 100 sestinas. Here, in all their glory, are poets from all schools and stripes who have taken the sestina challenge, from Sherman Alexie to Louis Zukofsky and everywhere in between:

  • sestina classics from John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Ezra Pound, Anthony Hecht, Donald Justice, and Marilyn Hacker
  • modern masterpieces from David Lehman, Patricia Smith, James Cummins, Sandra Beasley, Quincy Troupe and Anne Waldman
  • double sestinas from Denise Duhamel, Ernest Hilbert and Star Black
  • Matt Madden and Casey Camp’s comics sestina
  • Florence Cassen Mayers’s minimalist takes
  • Jonah Winter’s world-famous “Bob” sestina
  • selections from Nester’s picks as sestinas editor at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, from Rick Moody, David Trinidad, Rachel Shukert, Alfred Corn and Steve Almond
  • and much, much more!

With comments from contributors that take us “Behind the Sestina,” The Incredible Sestina Anthology is a greatest hits collection of this incredible form.

Incredible Sestina Anthology Press

“Celebrating Sestinas at Poets House,” pick for February 1 launch reading, by A.C. Lee, New York Times, January 30, 2014.

Interviews with contributors to The Incredible Sestina Anthology by Thomas V. Hartmann at Poet’s House Launch, 2014.

“I’m just going to say it: The Incredible Sestina Anthology is incredible. Here the sestina, “formerly dismissed as nonsense,” emerges as a tour de force form that, crafted well, can handle comedy and tragedy, obsession and indecency, and, of course, the sacred and the profane. The Incredible Sestina Anthologyhas everything, and by “everything,” I mean sestinas.”–Saara Myrene Raappana, American Book Review

A Dream of a Common Poetry: Daniel Nester with David Lehman at The New School Poetry Forum, by Nora Brooks, at The Best American Poetry Blog,

Q&A With Daniel Nester, Author of The Incredible Sestina Anthology, at Geekadelphia.

Book notes and playlist for The Incredible Sestina Anthology, at largehearted boy.

“Sestinapalooza,” Ben Yagoda’s appreciation of The Incredible Sestina Anthology, at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog


“The Joy of Six,” interview with Elizabeth Floyd Mair in Albany Times Union

“The Dream of a Common Poetry”: interview with M.E. Griffith in New Delta Review

Table of Contents


Sherman Alexie
The Business of Fancydancing

Shane Allison
Mother Worries

Steve Almond
Sestina for Elton John

Scott Edward Anderson
Second Skin

Alan Ansen
A Fit of Something Against Something

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Sestina for Shappy, Who Doesn’t Get Enough Love Poems

John Ashbery
Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape

W.H. Auden
Paysage Moralisé

Sandra Beasley
Let Me Count the Waves
The Editor of Encyclopedia Britannica Regrets Everything

Jeanne Marie Beaumont
A Stein’s Sestina

Aaron Belz

Tara Betts
Sestina for the Sin

Elizabeth Bishop
A Miracle for Breakfast

Star Black
Hi Yo

Paula Bohince
Allegory of the Leopard

Jenny Boully
Sestina of Missed Connections

Geoff Bouvier
Refining Sestina

Catherine Bowman
Mr. X

Derrick C. Brown
They Loved You and Your Title, But It All Telegraphed Too Much

Stephen Burt
Six Kinds of Noodles

Casey Camp
A Poem on the Severe Awesomeness of John Zorn

Jenna Cardinale
Beyond January

Patricia Carlin
Lives of the Conquerors

Shanna Compton
The Remarried Again Sestina

Jeffery Conway
Is It Dancing?

Alfred Corn
Pound-Eliot Sestina

Michael Costello
A Series

Laura Cronk
Sestina for a Sister

James Cummins
#17 from The Whole Truth
David Lehman and Jim Cummins Do Their Part After the World Trade Center Disaster

Peter Davis
Mustache Sestina

Sharon Dolin
Praying Mantis in Brooklyn
Reluctant Sestina

Denise Duhamel
The Brady Bunch (A Double Sestina)
On Delta Flight 659 with Sean Penn

Drew Gardner
Sestina: AltaVista

Dana Gioia
My Confessional Sestina

Sarah Green
Metamorphic Sestina

Beth Gylys
Not An Affair, A Sestina
The Scene

Marilyn Hacker
Untoward Occurrence at Embassy Poetry Reading

Donald Hall

James Harms
One Long Sentence and a Few Short Ones; or, 39 Lines by Frank Gehry

Brooks Haxton
Posttraumatic Small-Talk Disorder

Anthony Hecht
The Book of Yolek

Brian Henry
Bad Apple

Scott Hightower
Cruising a Hungry World

Ernest Hilbert
Hel[l]ical Double Sestina: [Metal Number One]

Elizabeth Hildreth
In a Rut

Paul Hoover
Sestina from Sonnet 56

John Hoppenthaler
Coconut Octopus

Sonya Huber
Dear Thrasher

Victor D. Infante
Six Portraits in Disintegration

Kent Johnson
Sestina: Avantforte

Donald Justice
Here in Katmandu

Meg Kearney
14th Street

Weldon Kees
Sestina: Travel Notes

Lynn Kilpatrick
Francis Bacon Sestina

Kenneth Koch & John Ashbery
Crone Rhapsody

Noelle Kocot
Why We Go to Couple’s Counseling

Leonard Kress
Miss New Jersey

Quraysh Ali Lansana

Joan Larkin
Jewish Food

David Lehman
The Old Constellation
Operation Memory

Eric LeMay
The Sestina Of O

Brendan Lorber
Luck Is the Thing We Are Shit Out Of

Matt Madden
The Six Treasures of the Spiral: A Comics Sestina

Paul Mariani
The Great Wheel

Nate Marshall
pallbearers (a sestina)

Harry Mathews

Florence Cassen Mayers
All-American Sestina
July Idyll

Marty McConnell
one possible explanation of my utter and rather surprising lack of an adolescent tomboy phase

James Merrill

Sharon Mesmer
Super Rooster Killer Assault Kit

Anis Mojgani
They raised violins

Rick Moody
Radio Sestina

Carley Moore

Lenard D. Moore
A Quiet Rhythm of Sleep

Jeffrey Morgan
When Unreal Girlfriends Die: The Manti Te’o Sestina

Tomás Q. Morín
Canso of the Dancing Bears

Paul Muldoon
The Last Time I Saw Chris

Amanda Nadelberg
My New Pet Word Is Mozzarella

Marilyn Nelson
Two Masters

Ethan Paquin
Oratio Moderna

Richard Peabody
Spaghetti Western Sestina

Kiki Petrosino

Carl Phillips

Ezra Pound
Sestina: Altaforte

Michael Quattrone

Ned Rust
Prophetic Sestina

Carly Sachs
Indecent Docent, Sex-Deprived Tina

Michael Schiavo
“Be Careful, Cortelyou, How You Tell Her”

Lawrence Schimel
Endless Sestina

Jason Schneiderman
The Buffy Sestina

Esther Schor
Sestina: Tegucigalpa

Ravi Shankar
How Duggan Knew

Peter Jay Shippy
The Lyricist and His Rock Star

Rachel Shukert
Subterranean Gnomesick Blues; or, The Gnome Who Whet My Fleshy Tent

Patricia Smith
Looking to See How the Eyes Inhabit the Dark. Wondering about Light.

Jay Snodgrass
Judas Priest


Heidi Lynn Staples
Embryonic Sestina

Mark Strand
Chekhov: A Sestina

Chris Stroffolino
In Memory of My Rock Band: Sestina

Jade Sylvan
Facebook Sestina

David Trinidad
Detective Notes
Playing with Dolls

Quincy Troupe
Sestina for 39 Silent Angels

Lewis Turco
The Vision

Martha Modena Vertreace-Doody
Señora Mamacita

Laura Van Prooyen
Lenten Sestina

Anne Waldman
How the Sestina (Yawn) Works

Miller Williams
The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina

Jonah Winter
Sestina: Bob
Sestina: A Cowboy’s Diary

Louis Zukofsky

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