September 18-19 Open Write – Writing Poems in Multiple Languages and a Sestina

On Sunday, I hosted the Ethical ELA poetry prompt again. The prompt was using multiple languages in poetry. You can read more here: Multiple Languaged Poem. My sample poems have already been published here: Mi Cuchara Favorita and Into the Door.

Monday’s prompt comes from Wendy Everard: Sestina (and Semi-Sestina). She gives some good advice for how to choose the topic and words, which I did not know about when I wrote my first sestina last year about racism and the other -isms that divide our nation. Today I wrote about remodeling and life.

Remodeling Life

Our home now is full of sawdust
As my sister and I design novel
Remodeling, finding solutions
From found articles. (So, very few checks
Are needed.) Useful creations custom-
Made with each nail pounded.

Before this, I could barely pound
a nail, and now I have left in the dust
that person who had a custom
of letting others do the work. Novel
idea—that, at my age, I can check
my assumptions and create new solutions

Like cutting a hole through a wall, solutions
Like reusing old materials to pound
Out a new piece of cabinetry. Check.
Satisfied in learning new skills, dusting
Off my old goals of creating. A novel
Way to live and be. A new custom.

Remodeling as metaphor, a customer
Of thinking. How can my new solutions
Inform my living and thinking? A novel
Longing as I reach up and pound
Another nail amidst the flying dust.
Remodeling: House? Life? Check.

After almost a life, time to check
Up and check in–what customs
Do I keep? And which go to dust?
Time is limited, the solution:
To let go of fallacies and pound
Every good word into the novel

Life is like a mostly good novel
Each chapter written, a check
Paid for by Grace, pounds
Of grace and goodness, custom-
Fit for each person. A solution
Of spirit and hope and dust.

So, I want to check the progress of the novel
To live not according to custom, but to pound
Good life into the dust; that is, Grace’s solution


I’m so happy that I found my voice when writing poetry. As Irene and Charles say on today’s word: “Words have power.” I have not always been kind and cautious in my use of words. Today I am practicing realizing the power of words.

During each day in the months of August and September, I am responding to a different word from Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Today’s word is Voice. A small group of people wanting to make the world a better place are reading and responding together. Join us! Visit Common Threads: Patchwork Prose and Verse by Kim Haynes Johnson for more information. Here is the word list I’ll be following for August and September.

One thought on “September 18-19 Open Write – Writing Poems in Multiple Languages and a Sestina

  1. Denise, I love your analogy to life being like a novel, with custom-fit goodness and grace. I also love that you are having such a meaningful experience breathing new life into the lungs of your home. It’s inspiring to watch – and I’m also thankful that you have preserved the experience in words and pictures.

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