In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Director MaryKatherine Callaway writes about Eldest Daughter.
Even devoted readers of poetry are often unaware of the complexities of the sestina. Many well-known poets (Ezra Pound, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Elizabeth Bishop) have written memorable sestinas, but for me no one can top sestinas written by Ava Leavell Haymon. And in Eldest Daughter, Haymon gives us some of her finest sestinas in print.
Attributed to a 12th century troubadour, the sestina presents a strict pattern for poets to follow, similar to its more straightforward cousin, the sonnet. Briefly, sestinas repeat the initial six end-words of the first stanza through five more six-line stanzas, and then end in a final three-line stanza.
This deceptively simple but extremely difficult poetic form has defeated many poets, whose sestinas simply limp along until they stop.
Not so in Haymon’s poems. Her lively sestinas move the action along at a brisk pace, and reward re-readings.
Anyone can enjoy Eldest Daughter without giving the sestina a thought, but finding them and watching them unfurl in well-crafted stanzas can increase your delight as you read these fine poems.
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