Friday, January 22, 2010


"The Smoking Chap" - speed painting by Chris Butler, aka Isoban

I watch it all begin with just a line,
Then more, from which will soon emerge a shape.
A face appears! Then as he adds some shade
And fine detail, there bubbles up a word,
Perhaps a name: The Smoking Chap! What verse
Can I create to catch this painting's tone?

An ugly face, say all, which sets the tone
As this chap comes to life. With ev'ry line
More tufts of hair and wrinkles show (in verse:
The flow of time is speeded on). My shade
Is there to follow Chris's hand; the word
I want is "telepresence." More takes shape.

O that a world like ours now holds its shape,
So real, though so much of it has the tone
Of fantasy! The ether bears my word
To he who draws; he answers. A new line
Appears upon his screen and there's a shade
Of character there now to haunt my verse.

We live now in a wholly sci-fi 'verse.
Our daily world has taken on a shape
Which leaves both Verne and Wells off in the shade.
No one imagined one day that his tone
Of voice as he makes ev'ry brand-new line
Could be shared with so many, and each word.

Some still believe it started with a Word,
This world; they quote in turn each Bible verse
As though it had that power. Not my line,
Such thinking, though I watched as Chris did shape
A Fremen next by my request. In tone
It owed much to Leone's cowboy shade...

Now migraine-haunted I lie in the shade
Of my cool room; unbidden comes the word
"Sestina," all-commanding in the tone
Of this, my smoking muse, demanding verse
To celebrate his strange birth, taking shape
From Chris's hand to my uncertain line.

A line and then another, thought and shade
Bring forth a shape and then a hail of word
To form a verse whose tone is veiled in smoke.

Sestinator's note: Today's sestina was largely inspired by a most unusual experience I shared with a few friends earlier this week. The creator of the speed painting which appears above executed it live via his Ustream channel. He -- and we -- enjoyed it so much that we're going to do it all again sometime this weekend. If you would like to join us, keep an eye on Isoban's Twitter feed for the announcement and follow the link. Join our painting peanut gallery!

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