Wordy Wednesday: sestude
While this week’s word, sestude, may not be one to set a Scrabble enthusiast’s pulse racing (unlike muzjiks, for instance, the highest scoring game opener), it’s still a word that aspires to big things..
If you’re wondering how ‘sestude’ passed you by (and/or getting frustrated by my failure to supply a definition), I’ll put you out of your misery. Although, technically, sestude is in the Collins Online Dictionary, it’s in there only as a new word suggestion…
The term ‘sestude’ was coined in 2010 by John Simmons, a founding member of writers’ group 26 (the number of letters in the alphabet) for a project called 26 Treasures, based on objects in the V&A Museum’s British Galleries. A sestude is a poem containing exactly 62 words (though in the case of my sestude on Dylan Thomas, shown below, the maths only works if you count compound words as one, not two: I was told that was ok…). And if you’re wondering why it’s 62 words, it’s because 62 is the mirror image of 26.
The following year, other national museums in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland adopted the form for exhibitions, and in 2012 a book, “26 Treasures“, was published by Unbound, becoming the world’s first-ever collection of sestudes and featuring work by more than 100 writers.
In the run up to Christmas, you’ll find a daily sestude on 26 Stories of Christmas, a charity advent calendar in support of Teenage Cancer Trust and Scottish cancer charity itsgood2give, with each poem a response to a drawing by a young cancer sufferer (one of whom sadly died before the project went live). The aim of the site is to drive donations to these great charities, so I do hope you’ll visit it and dig deep: there are some wonderful drawings and a really diverse and fascinating range of sestudes. Mine, The Mysteries of Christmas, and the lovely drawing which inspired it, will be up on Christmas Day, so please check back then.
In the meantime, here’s an earlier sestude of mine (based on a word list written by Dylan Thomas for ‘Poem on his birthday’), which appeared in the award-winning ’26 Treasures’ book:
Dylan Thomas’s word list
Above the gull-strewn, sand-duned bay
Where water rip-curls, spurting spray
At sullen skies that threaten rain,
He crumples paper; tries again
Lighting his umpteenth cigarette,
Sifting thesaurus and alphabet,
He aspirates and assonates as he inscribes
The creamy page with blue word-tribes
Striving, in the ever-creeping gloom
Of his womb-like, tomb-like room,
Though brain-wracked and battle-scarred,
To be THE poet; THE bard
Thank you, and merry Christmas everybody…