Writing Exercise – English Sestet

by | January 6, 2015 | Writing Exercise | 10 comments

By Ashley Lister

Happy New Year.  We’re
at the beginning of another year and, as always, I’m hoping to share some writing
exercises in the manner of poetic forms. 
I thought I’d start this year with something relatively simple: the
English Sestet. 

Forerunners of the English Sestet can be found as the final
six lines of a typical sonnet.  A
giveaway detail to this relationship between the sestet and the sonnet is the distinctive
rhyme scheme of a, b, a, b, c, c.  Again,
because of its associations with the sonnet, the English Sestet is most
commonly written in iambic pentameter (that is, five two-syllable ‘feet’
following a pattern of unstressed/stressed).

Here’s an example:

I have only three rules you should follow,

To give us harmony when we’re alone.

Firstly you can’t spit: you have to swallow.

Second: you must be faithful to my bone.

The third rule is the easiest for you:

Enjoy each kinky thing that we both do.

This one isn’t technically iambic.  It has ten syllables per line (which is close
enough to the rhythm for my pronunciation) but the stressed and unstressed
patterns aren’t iambic. However this does follow the a, b, a, b, c, c, rhyme

The poem below also follows that same pattern:

You wouldn’t let me put it in your ass

You wouldn’t let me put it in your mouth

You say that my suggestions shows no class

You say that my charisma’s heading south

You’re making this small task a giant chore:

So how else could I take your temperature?

And it’s as simple as that. As always, if you care to share
your poetry in the comments box below, it would be great to see how others
approach this particular form.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Rachel Green

    New Love

    Her tears were jewels in the setting sun
    her breasts the gnomon of a fading dial
    a husband lost became a lover won
    the coldest sob behoves the warmer smile.
    Custody of children looms, a battle
    still while marriage sings a final rattle.

    • Lisabet Sarai

      How often does one get to use the word "gnomon"?

      Lovely, Rachel!

    • Rachel Green

      Thank you kindly 🙂

    • Ashley Lister

      Rachel – love it. The rhythm flows and the narrative is compelling. Not bad for six lines.

    • Rachel Green

      Thank you kindly. It was a little depressing, perhaps.

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Ash,

    I don't know if the "gotcha" in your second sestet is really kosher!

    I'll see if I can come up with one of my one.

  3. Lisabet Sarai

    By Lisabet Sarai

    You mention taking me across your knee;
    My mind supplies the heat of skin on skin.
    Of whips and wax you speak, so casually;
    You sketch perverted outlines I fill in,
    Elaborate, embroider and refine
    Are these ideas of yours, or are they mine?

    (Not much of a poem – very few concrete, sensual words – but it does scan and rhyme correctly!)

    • Ashley Lister

      I think this works well. The sensuality of your concrete words is there for those of us who find sensuality in phrases such as knee, mind, skin on skin and whips and wax. It think that covers a fair few of us here at ERWA.

  4. Rachel Green

    lovely. Certainly evocative 🙂

  5. Jean Roberta

    Such different poems, yet both equally effective.

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