Look Up Definitions of End Words and Chart Their Uses

After you have selected your end words, look up all possible definitions and uses in the dictionary and make a chart.

Before writing this chapter, I composed a new sestina according to the steps I have outlined here. I had just seen a fabulous documentary on Lourdes, the city in France where the Virgin Mary is said to appear and where miracles reportedly are performed. The mystic appearances and cures seemed ideal for the repetition of a sestina.

Using the list above, I chose a related set of end words — ones that appeared custom-made for the subject matter and that could yield multiple sounds or meanings (including, coincidentally, the city's own name). I allowed myself one slant rhyme —a word that was close but not exact in sound (tale/teal, for instance)—for each word, in case I wanted to vary the sound in a certain stanza. (Typically, the use of a slant rhyme or two in an entire sestina is permissible.)

Then I looked up my words in the dictionary, including compound words that, when hyphenated, could be used as an end word on one line and then as the beginning word of the next line (as in tail-/gate).

Here's my chart:

1. Tale/Tail: tale (story/rumor/falsehood), tell-tale, tail-coat, tailgate, tail-light, tail-pipe, tail-spin. Slant rhyme: teal.

2. Lourdes/Lords: Lourdes (place name), lords (noun: royalty/verb: rules), Lord's, House of Lords, the Lord's Day, the Lord's prayer, the Lord's supper. Slant rhyme: lured.

3. Resort: resort (noun: vacation spot, attempt/verb: to try), re-sort. Slant rhyme: rest or.

4. Walks: walks (noun: paths, distance, characteristic feature, status/verb: to go, to follow), woks, walk-in, walk-on, walk-out, walk-over, walk-up. Slant rhyme: wax.

5. Heal/Heel: heal (verb: make whole, settle, cure, mend), heal-thy, heel (noun: part of foot, shoe, a fool/verb: to follow as a dog, to lean as a ship). Slant rhyme: hell.

6. Appear: appear (verb: come into view, to be in court, to seem), up here. Slant rhymes: A pear, a pair.

After making my chart, I was ready to compose my sestina . . . but not in the usual manner, composing the opening lines first.

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