Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Adverbs in Sestinas

To the person who found my blog because they wanted to know whether you can put adverbs in sestinas: yes, you can, but I don't advise using adverbs in sestinas often. Adverbs only sometimes work well in poetry. Words that end in -ly are not very euphonious, and most of the time there'd be a more efficient way of conveying whatever you're trying to convey with the adverb. However, if it does sound fine and if it does convey something that's worth conveying, then there's no reason not to use it.

With a sestina in particular I can understand why you might want to give it a shot: an adverb could modify one of those repeating end-words, which could give you the difference-within-repetition that makes a good sestina tick. However, I feel like it would be more powerful if you managed to convey the change in the end-word using the whole line; that way, the sameness of the end-word remains, despite the change in meaning. Generally, the more the reader has to work for something, the greater its effect, but the more the reader has to work for something, the less likely the reader will get it. You need to strike that balance. Adverbs make things obvious.

But even more generally: find an editor! Try it out multiple ways and then run it by someone you trust with your work to see what they think of it. Revise revise revise; your first draft ain't sacred, so don't be afraid of bungling it.

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