This week’s poem, Philip Carlsen’s “Loop Artist,” is a “rhopalic sestina”: Carlsen takes the classic form of the sestina, which repeats the same six words over six stanzas, and crafts each stanza such that each line has one more syllable than the last. I love the cyclical rhythm and build that this creates. It’s perfect for a poem about a musician who works in loops – laying down a line of music and playing it back, then another, and another, and gradually layering the tune forward.

Carlsen is a composer and cellist who taught music at the University of Maine at Farmington from 1982 until his retirement in 2015. His poetry has appeared in Off the Coast, The Found Poetry Review, the Ekphrastic Review, and elsewhere, including previously in Deep Water. He lives in South Portland with his wife, the poet Jeri Theriault.

Loop Artist (a rhopalic sestina)
By Philip Carlsen

tap, timed
grabs the long string
of notes we watched him
pluck, preserving a loop,

end to
start—a hymn
to second time
around. The six strings’
driving riff, precisely,

ly looped,
lays down strong
thumping beats. Toes
poised, slim hips move, timed
to the groove. His ease—him,


shaping time
into clean loops.
He nods his head, toes
tapping, fingers the strings,

from one to
the precisely
placed next rolling loop
of sound, arresting time.

stops. Strings
of notes loop
endlessly, hum-
drumming, precisely
fixed, lockstep concerto,

timed to
precisely string
us to him, rapt in loops.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. ”Loop Artist,” © 2015 by Philip Carlsen, appears by permission of the author.

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