Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Septina: A New Poetic Form?

A topic definitely unrelated to the subject of this blog.

That's okay, though. I'm a writer and teacher, so it's only natural that my writing life would spill over into the personal; I can't sustain the issues of weight and relationship to food 24/7. So, readers, expect tangents like this. This blog is a work-in-progress.

In my quest to come up with interesting prompts for my creative writing students, I may have stumbled upon a new poetic form. I hesitate to call it an original idea because I'm fairly certain it's one of those ideas that people just naturally pick up on because my discovery is an offshoot of the sestina, an existing poetic form. "Septina" is definitely not an original name; on Google, septina, as a poetic form, is mentioned at least 60 times, but writers tend to talk about the problem of developing the form past that first seven-line stanza, or they develop it in a different way, not at all like a sestina. One person wanted to write a Septina but couldn't figure out how to configure the problematic last stanza.

The poet Marilyn Hacker wrote "Morning News," her version of a Septina, posted on the Forward website:

But her excellent Septina consists of eight, seven-line stanzas with an end-word scheme unlike mine. Still, from what I can gather, Ms. Hacker is probably the first person to write a poem in this form, so she's probably the "inventor." But who knows? Maybe the Septina, in some form or another, has been passed around in the classroom and in writing circles. If not, it will; I plan to release it in a few days at the NCTE Exercise Exchange. Why not? It's a fascinating form, based on multiples of seven, supposedly the most perfect prime number. A good poet could write a stunning Septina, and I'd love to see some published, though modern journals tend to shy away from form poetry. For an interesting thread on the state of form poetry, click

Anyway, here's my version of the form, offered as a prompt for anyone wanting to tackle a Septina:

Write a "Septina," a 54-line poem consisting of seven, seven-line stanzas, and an ending quintet (five lines). The end-word scheme might be arranged as follows:

Stanza 1: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Stanza 2: 7,6,1,5,2,4,3

Stanza 3: 3,7,6,4,1,2,5

Stanza 4: 5,3,2,6,7,1,4

Stanza 5: 4,5,1,3,6,7,2

Stanza 6: 2,4,7,5,3,1,6

Stanza 7: 6,7,2,3,4,5,1

Stanza 8: (1,2,[3-4-5],6,7)

(Five lines, three end words in line 52, or line three in the

As the creator (?) of this particular configuration, I have not written a Septina--it looks a little intimidating. I have written a few sestinas, but they took a long time, and I'm still not all that happy with them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you write a Septina.

Is anyone out there?


Jennifer Semple Siegel


lisa said...

Hi, Jennifer! I'm on dietsurvivors, too. I also tutor/teach English/writing at the college level. I also write on the side. I enjoyed reading about the Septina.

e-Fatlady said...

Thanks, Lisa,

You're my first real poster!