“Coming Out Atheist”

So Greta Christina’s new book is out now. As was expected, it is excellent. When she offered a copy for me to review, my only question was “what sort of verse form do you want the review in?” To my horror, she said she would love a Sestina. A Villanelle would be acceptable, but her first choice would be a Sestina.

I have a confession. I hate sestinas (I was only capitalizing them earlier to draw attention to the word–I’ll stop now; I know how it annoys some people). To me, sestinas represent effort for the sake of effort. They don’t rhyme, but they follow an annoying set of constraints. I know, I should be (and am) a fan of constrained writing, but I just don’t like the sestina form.

But enough about that. This post isn’t about my neuroses, it’s about Greta Christina’s book.

This verse serves as Greta Christina’s sestina–
It’s not a sestina at all, you can tell
I cannot produce what’s requested; I’m bested–
Instead, she’ll be getting her own sepielle
Some people need help leaving closets, she posits;
She’s written a “Coming Out Atheist” book
There’s lots of advice, well worth heeding–I’m reading,
And strongly advise you to all take a look

Some godless are “out” very loudly and proudly,
Some stay in the closet for decades or more–
The former will find Greta’s writing exciting;
The latter, of course, are the folks that it’s for
Explaining the “atheist” stigma’s enigmas,
She’s firmly in favor of using the word;
Embracing the fact that you’re godless, facade-less,
Ensuring your meaning is properly heard

Your own coming-out can help others–your brothers
And sisters and more, who are trapped in the dark
They’re waiting on you to inspire their fire;
There’s fuel, and there’s air–all it wants is your spark
If faith’s not your thing, then replace it! Let’s face it,
It’s your life to live, and you only get one!
With Greta’s new book as your how-to, time now, to
Step out of the closet, and into the sun!


  1. John Horstman says

    In one of the poetry classes I took back when I was still pursuing an English degree, we looked at Sestina Bob as an example of a delightful subversion of the form. Prompted by this, I wrote my own double-subversion using “fuck” as the repeated word. However, I used the word in six different forms/parts of speech (exclamatory interjection of distress, transitive verb meaning “to copulate”, transitive verb meaning “to exploit or otherwise harm”, intransitive verb expressing disgust, noun meaning “bad person”, and idiomatic exclamatory noun as in “WTF?”) and I made sure to follow the sestina form keeping each of the different forms of “fuck” consistent with the prescribed pattern. It was a lot of fun, and by the end of my class reading, we were all in hysterics (including the professor and me – I had to stop and start a couple times becasue I was laughing so hard).

    So, my only point is, it’s entirely possible to make an annoyingly restrictive form like the sestina ridiculously fun by playing with it. And using swear words. :-)

  2. John Horstman says

    Oh, and I’m about a third of the way through Greta’s book, and it’s great so far. As someone who already mostly just lives as out, what I like best are the various coming out anecdotes from others.

  3. says

    Sepielle? You’ve got a name for your unique, original poetic format now? How was it chosen? It’s certainly a simpler and smoother term than what I’ve been thinking of as “reverberant amphibrach tetrameter”. You are a master of it. I read and reread them, savoring every syllable and the brilliance of structure. Thank you, thank you for those delicious treats.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Sepielle was chosen as a nod to both “sepia”, the cuttlefish’s ink, and a number of different verse forms like the villanelle, paradelle, and terzanelle.

    Mostly I just had to call it something!

  5. says

    This is what I love about your blog, Cuttlefish – I learn something new every day! Love your poetry and I love this one honoring another favorite blogger, Greta!

    I am planning to order her newest book tonight. I also plan to post about it on Facebook – I have several friends whom I suspect are in the “latter” category mentioned in stanza two. I don’t pressure people, but making good stuff available for them to pick up and read might not hurt!

    I wrote a post on this topic a while ago — I think closeted atheists can be encouraged by open atheists speaking out. I know I was once in the former category and am now in the latter one! Thanks to the bracing air on FTB in large part! (link to my post if you’re interested: http://www.niftyatheist.com/2013/10/nifty-tbt-coming-out-as-atheist.html )

  6. Cuttlefish says

    Oh, yay, someone noticed!

    And I suspect that there are more untagged sepielles than tagged; I’ve been writing them a lot longer than I’ve had a name for them! Thanks for the pointer; I’m off to fix it…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *