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A sestina poem repeats words throughout the poem. The line-ending words are repeated in the stanzas that follow. And there is a specific rotating order.

A sestina has six 6-line stanzas. The last stanza has a 3-line "envoi" which incorporates all the line-ending words, some hidden inside the lines.

The pattern for the traditional sestina with the 6 line-ending words is:

1st stanza 1 2 3 4 5 6
2nd stanza 6 1 5 2 4 3
3rd stanza 3 6 4 1 2 5
4th stanza 5 3 2 6 1 4
5th stanza 4 5 1 3 6 2
6th stanza 2 4 6 5 3 1
Final Envoi stanza 2--5 4--3 6--1

In the example below the repeated words are shown in bold. This is not how it is normally presented.

Non Traditional Example

    Change of Heart

    As friends we'd meet to laugh and sing
    And I would play the lighter part
    When in the woods we'd playful linger
    Inside our special fairy ring.
    No thought we gave to mind nor heart
    When through my hair you'd run your finger
    But soft and slow you stole my heart (from line 5 stanza 1)
    Around your soul I'd always linger. (from line 3 stanza 1)
    You'd smile and deep inside I'd sing.(from line 1 stanza 1)
    I could not live each time we'd part (from line 2 stanza 1)
    And so upon your third left finger (from line 6 stanza 1)
    I placed your own engagement ring. (from line 4 stanza 1)

    Soon under clothes our hands would linger
    As lips hard pressed, fast beat my heart.
    It scarce slowed at the wedding ring
    Placed with its twin upon your finger.
    We swore that only death would part
    As 'God of love' the choir did sing.

    And now you've stamped upon my heart
    As leaving me you gave the finger
    Leaving me with just suffer ring
    - written by snodlander

Examples provided by the writers at

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