The “Revival Issue” of december ( http://decembermag.org/ ), a famous Chicago periodical having many connections with the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop during its classical heyday, has just been published by Gianna Jacobson, Editor, in December 2013 with new works by many of its original contributors and works by totally new ones.
One of the poems it contains is “The Cathedral” by Lewis Turco, a sestina written with repeated headwords rather than line-ending teleutons:
Carven images bedeck its eaves;
Cloven hooves of fauns must scrabble where
Craven blackbirds arch their wings and call
Coven members to their burning duties.
Corvine discourses are hushed within the
Cavern of the nave. Do knaves fill this
Cavern once again? Are these figures
Carven at, or on the altar? Are they
Corvine in their nature? How long have they
Cloven faith from service to formulate a
Coven of figures clothed in cerements?
Craven from the beginning, have they preyed
Cravenly on the choir serving this
Cavern of piety? Was their warlocks'
Coven formed expressly for this purpose?
Carven in the doctrine of three males
Cloven from Adam's rib: Father, Son, and
Corvine Holy Spirit, never from the
Curving womb? Was doctrine ever so
Craven, so fearful of the feminine? Can
Cloven hooves be heard scuttling among this
Cavern's aisles, before these seven stations
Carven with the symbols of the rood?
Covens have been purported to exist from
Coventry to Navarre, all of them
Corvine in their kind...wings hover over
Carven gargoyles in the umber eaves.
Craven shadows linger in this empty
Cavern, in the apse and in the choir.
Cloven vows lie riven at the altar,
Cloven vows that echo in this final
Coven of the Holy Ghost, in this
Cavern of the lost where in the vault
Corvine hosts prey upon the children,
Craven blackbirds raven far beneath
Carven gargoyles sitting in the eaves.
Cloven vows fall beneath this corvine
Coven dedicated to the craven
Cavern-dwellers, caryatids carven.
By Lewis Turco. All rights reserved 2013.
"The Cathedral" is quite marvelous. I loved the adjustment to the sestina, which enlivens a form I was never a damn fool about, and all the other wordplay in the poem. I'm quite envious of the quantity and especially the quality of what you're writing these days. As Pound said in a not entirely dissimilar context, "Complimenti, you bitch."
Love the poem, dazzled by the assonance/consonance of the head words. You are the 3-dimensional chess player of poetry!
I can't think of anyone else Capable of such Curious, Clever Cobbling of Calculated Convergences! Your Capacity to Contrive Complex, Canny Compositions is beyond Comprehension!
That’s quite a sestina, Lew. I like the way the headwords caw. It’s a tour de force – again!
Ruth F. Harrison
...my own copy of December arrived yesterday & I was able to read "The Cathedral" -- A very impressive piece of work!
“The Cathedral” sestina is indeed intriguing and extremely well-worked. I just smiled at the word play and it cheered me greatly at a time when I've just learned I've lost an old friend from throat cancer. Life of quiet desperation when you get old, innit?