Meaning Of The Poem A Sestina

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A sestina is a type of poem consisting of six six-line stanzas with a three-line concluding stanza, called an envoy. Sestinas generally do not rhyme, and have a very specific pattern of word placement. Each line of the six stanzas ends in one of a series of the same set of six words which are repeated in an altered order at the end of each line in each stanza, and are included in the envoy.
The set of six words that Elizabeth Bishop has selected to repeat in her poem Sestina are ‘house’, ‘grandmother’, ‘child’, ‘stove’, ‘almanac’, and ‘tears’. These words are essential in order for the essence of the poem to be realized, which is about a seemingly ordinary interaction between an older woman and a child in the kitchen of a house on a rainy fall evening. Going through their routine activities of having tea and reading jokes from an almanac. Through the use and repetition of certain words and images, the poet communicates that although there is no overt exposition of an unfortunate event, there is an atmosphere of tragedy surrounding the two characters.
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At first, the scene seems almost cozy. Autumn rain is falling, but the grandmother and the child are sitting in a kitchen by a stove. The name of the stove is also a play on words, as “the grandmother sings to the marvellous stove” in the envoy. The stove is a marvel in that it provides warmth on a chilly night, and provides heat for kettle. The grandmother watches the stove carefully, to ensure that its warmth is maintained. The grandmother is “reading jokes from the almanac” which would suggest that the two are laughing together, but in the last line of the stanza, the poet describes the grandmother is hiding her tears from the child. She wants to conceal her sadness and is using humour from the almanac and laughter to do
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