A sestina is an elaborate verse form employed by medieval Provençal and Italian, and occasional modern, poets. It consists, in its pure medieval form, of six stanzas of blank verse, each of six lines—hence the name. The final words of the first stanza appear in varied order in the other five, the order used by the Provençals being: abcdef, faebdc, cfdabe, ecbfad, deacfb, bdfeca. Following these was a stanza of three lines, in which the six key words were repeated in the middle and at the end of the lines, summarizing the poem or dedicating it to some person.

I have been thinking for ages of trying to write a sestina, but thought it would be too difficult. In the event, it turns out to be no more difficult than doing a crossword puzzle (although, as you will see, my envoi – the three-line stanza that ends it – doesn’t quite accord with the rules); but the tricky bit is observing the form while still saying something worth saying. I hope that this was worth saying:

I shall write you a fucking sestina and you still won’t care.
I shall stare at the laptop waiting for your answer.
After a week you will send me a one-line e-mail:
I like it! a smiley face and a single kiss
Is all I will get for my outpouring of love.
Do you wonder that I am bitter and your slave?

You cannot – or can you? – have wanted me for your slave.
Even if you knew what I felt, and didn’t care
You must have known that everything I write about love
Is addressed to you, and’s for you to answer;
Yet all I receive is a hug and a chaste kiss,
A tardy, unwilling reply to my passionate e-mail.

I wish I could write you a letter instead of an e-mail.
The list of emojis doesn’t have one for ‘slave’,
And there’s no weight of meaning in typing an ‘x’ for a kiss.
Between the lines I can tell you how much I care,
But not enough for you to have to answer
In words that have anything at all to do with love.

And that’s that. I’ve had enough of writing about love –
Writing to myself (even though I send you the e-mail).
I have no question waiting for an answer.
All I have’s this sestina over which I slave;
And I wonder sometimes if it is this I care
More about than getting from you a tender kiss.

But my heart aches still when I dream about that kiss
And of you, and of begging you for your love;
And I wonder if I have taken too much care
Not to hurt you with what I write in the e-mail:
Romantic love, like this tricky form, can make a slave
Of anyone who can’t find an easy answer.

O love! O Love! tell me, tell me the answer.
Is it that simple- to want no more than a kiss?
Would that free me to be your equal, no longer your slave?
Would I know at last what it means to love,
To please you, to be kind, forget the bloody e-mail;
To forget the pangs of passion and truly care?

Answer me, dear, and, I beg you, in words of love.
Kiss your poor slave who sends you this e-mail.
I press ‘send’ and place this poor verse in your care.


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nothing is
nothing is more
nothing is
nothing is more
nothing is more important to us here at freeversefolkestone

what is the word
that faint sound so brief
so brief
repeated over and over until you are sick with vomit
begins with G
again and again
till in the end
the end
the end that ends with DPR
that come after the G
you are sick with vomit
in the end

seeing all this
the vomit and
that nothing is more important
than your personal details
sacred they are
especially yours Janet (02220 000222 Flat1 Samuel Beckett Gardens Tranmere)
and especially that so personal detail
that you leave the back door open sometimes in case you forget your keys
usually between 09:00 and 16:00 Monday-Friday

no nothing is more
nothing is any more
but the end
and the vomit
and the faint sound of that word
nothing there any more
but the vomit
and the open back door



O Fu*k

Last weekend I went, on Saturday evening, to see a comedian, and then to a poetry event on Sunday (yesterday). I heard the word ‘fuc*’ about 870 times; if a sentence didn’t include the word ‘*uck*, it would have ‘*anker’ or ‘w*nk’. And I thought :this is becoming boring. It’s the 2018 equivalent of songs that rhyme ‘mo*n’ and ‘J*ne’; it’s past its sell-by date. Whilst reserving the right, when I am at home alone, to swear extravagantly and in a manner disproportionate to the cause (eg “Why won’t the lid come off this fuck*ng jar? You c*nty cu*t- if you don’t come off, I’m going to throw you against the fuckin* wall. You’ll ******g come off then, you fu**ing *unt.”), I have decided that I will, in future, write without using strong language. However, before I do that, I want to have a last hurrah.

This is called Limerick Using the Word Fuck (apologies to Edward Fuckin’ Lear)


There was an old fucker from Folkestone

Who said fuck every time his mouth opened

“Fuck off!” “Fuck about”

“Fuck all”, he’d fuckin’ shout

Until fuck was the only word spoken