Today, as per a suggestion in The I Ching for Writers, I tried to write a sestina. A sestina is a poem of seven stanzas. The first six stanzas are of six lines each. The first stanza sets the end-words. Each end-word then has to be used to end a certain line in the next stanza, in a complicated scheme called a retrograde cross or retrogradatio cruciata. The last stanza has three lines with two of the end-words in each line.
Retrogradatio cruciata is not a Renaissance torture device, though it might be if you’re a poet. Sestinas are hard, and I shall have mercy enough not to inflict my stilted attempt on your delicate literary sensibilities.
Now, in complete contradiction to my blog post title, I shall not actually explain the functioning system behind retrograde crossing. (If you want to see it graphically represented, check it out). I feel I have done enough introducing you to the term. Next time someone at a cocktail party mentions a retrograde cross (I know, they do that all the time) you’ll know it’s not a gymnastics feat, nor a new and complex type of highway junction. It’s a complex poetic organization scheme, which is really all the explanation anyone but a poet would want to know anyway.