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sestinas
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does on his own time

sestinas

By the Numbers

I’ve written more sestinas than there are particles in the known universe. If you’re thinking, “Eh, so what, Raymond Queneau wrote a Hundred Thousand Billion sonnets,” I would reply that humans have a hard time visualizing very large numbers.

A hundred thousand billion is 1014, or,

100,000,000,000,000

It has been estimated that the number of particles in the known universe is from 1072 up to 1087 which is:

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000

The number of sestinas I’ve written is 9.103 x 10131, or,

910,251,623,407,960,787,539,543,324,904,089,233, 758,905,973,536,329,779,381,000,049,443,843,029,
464,779,513,168,359,606,194,209,951,426,108,247,
244,800,000,000,000,000,000

This number doesn’t really have a name, but if it did it would be something like Nine Hundred Ten Unquardragintillion, Two Hundred Fifty One Quardragintillion, Six Hundred Twenty Three Novemtrigintillion, Four Hundred Seven Octotrigintillion, Nine Hundred Sixty Septtrigintillion, Seven Hundred Eighty Seven Sextrigintillion, Five Hundred Thirty Nine Quintrigintillion, Five Hundred Forty Three Quattuortrigintillion, Three Hundred Twenty Four Tretrigintillion, Nine Hundred Four Duotrigintillion, Eighty Nine Untrigintillion, Two Hundred Thirty Three Trigintillion, Seven Hundred Fifty Eight Novemvigintillion, Nine Hundred Five Octovigintillion, Nine Hundred Seventy Three Septvigintillion, Five Hundred Thirty Six Sexvigintillion, Three Hundred Twenty Nine Quinvigintillion, Seven Hundred Seventy Nine Quattuorvigintillion, Three Hundred Eighty One Trevigintillion, Forty Nine Unvigintillion, Four Hundred Forty Three Vigintillion, Eight Hundred Forty Three Novemdecillion, Twenty Nine Octodecillion, Four Hundred Sixty Four Septdecillion, Seven Hundred Seventy Nine Sexdecillion, Five Hundred Thirteen Quindecillion, One Hundred Sixty Eight Quattuordecillion, Three Hundred Fifty Nine Tredecillion, Six Hundred Six Duodecillion, One Hundred Ninety Four Undecillion, Two Hundred Nine Decillion, Nine Hundred Fifty One Nonillion, Four Hundred Twenty Six Octillion, One Hundred Eight Septillion, Two Hundred Forty Seven Sexillion, Two Hundred Forty Four Quintillion, Eight Hundred Quadrillion. Catchy, huh? Try saying that five times fast!

It also took Queneau 140 lines of a 14-line form to reach 1014 poems. It only took me 72 lines of a 36-line form (or, more accurately, 72 lines for the body and 3 lines for the envoi of a 39-line form)to reach 9.103 x 10131 poems. In the world of combinatorials, doing more with less means I win. By a lot.

This number is so large I could guarantee that if you ever saw two identical sestinas from this collection, I would give you one billion times the purchase price back. If you bought 100 of these for 10¢ each, and any two were exactly the same, I would happily pay you 10 billion dollars. If I had it. Which I don’t, because I’m a poet, but, you get the point.

By the Heart

This is a series of 9.103 x 10131 sestinas I wrote over the course of many years. In my real world I was moving in a series of progressively (but everso-slightly) smaller orbits that would eventually bring me here to the best part of my life. The ride itself was like being on a carousel. The regular reappearance of the brass ring was what kept me going. Being always up or down or pulled in or out just as the ring went by fueled a sense of free-fall. A sestina feels to me like a fall through a system of cycles. I began to write, and ended up with more sestinas than there are particles in the known universe. What continues to interest me in these poems is how every one can be both different and the same, both the same and different. I hope they say something about language itself, something about the deep structures of grammar, and the relationship between what we can put into words and what we can take from them.

For what it’s worth, and for those of you have any notion of what I have done and the kind of work I do, this is my favorite of all the things I’ve done. It is certainly, by a vast margin, the project which has the most of my hours put into it. Nothing else comes close. Oh, and they’re all love poems, too.

Ordering

You can buy these sestinas in any quantity you like, from one to 9.103 x 10131. They are printed, cut, folded, and shipped to order. Each sestina is a half-page of letter-sized piece of paper printed on both sides and folded in half. Please inquire for volume discounts if you have a gymnasium, cathedral or stadium you would like to fill.

If you only order one, you won’t really get even a taste of what makes these work. If you order ten you will start to glimpse the barest bit of what is going on. If you order a hundred, that would only be $10—less than you’d expect to pay for a hundred page book of poems—and you will have a reasonable but exceedingly tiny view of the whole. If you order a thousand you will end up giddy and perhaps slightly mad from reading them all. If you order ten thousand it will come in a box about the size of a case of reams of paper. If you order a hundred thousand it will be less expensive to ship it on a pallet by motor freight than by UPS. If you order a million I’ll pay the shipping. If you order ten million, please allow 4–6 weeks for production. If you order a hundred million I will ship in installments. If you order a billion, please select the area of the planet you would like de-forested. If you order ten billion you better be buying them for your heirs to read, not yourself. For orders over ten billion, please send a certified check.

But really, you can order any number you like. 42 may get you the The Ultimate Answer. 314159 may be sweet as pi. Pick a number, any number, and I promise that no one else before or after you will receive the same sestinas you do.

To order using any major credit card processed through our secure PayPal shopping cart, please use the buttons below. Sestinas are 10¢ each, plus S&H.

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